They are the only professionals, along with doctors, considered worthy of great respect by a significant slice of the public, a Mori poll showed this week.
Politicians and journalists were viewed with near-universal contempt, according to the survey for the National College for School Leadership.
More than half of adults in England (51 per cent) thought headteachers provided good examples of leadership, although they lost ground slightly compared with last year, when 53 per cent said that.
But headteachers were still comfortably ahead of Armed Forces officers, who were said by 38 per cent of the public to set a good example as leaders, the same proportion as last year.
Only 10 per cent of the public thought MPs were role models of good leadership, while just 7 per cent rated trade union officials and 4 per cent local politicians. Civil servants gained the endorsement of just 3 per cent.
Almost three-quarters of parents with children at school or who have just left said school leadership was at least "fairly good".
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: ""I am absolutely delighted with these results. They prove that the public understands what a responsible job heads have. They have a better understanding than some people in the education service."
Mori questioned 1,756 adults in England in March for the poll.