The Department for Education and Employment has passed over some of country's most prominent headteachers and academics for the high-profile position.
A new advertisement for the job, published in this week's TES, targets the business sector for an alternative field of candidates.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has been closely associated with the leadership college, personally announcing the idea last year and revealing Nottingham University as its location in October. But the Government denies that he had a hand in the rejection of the first field of applicants or the new emphasis on business experience.
A DFEE spokesman said: "We are now turning our attention to finding someone who is at the cutting edge of education and who has excellent strategic vision and business acumen."
He acknowledged it was now unlikely that the post would be filled by next Easter, the original deadline for the appointment, but this would not delay the opening of the college in September. Senior appointments in the college may have to be made without the participation of the director.
Fifty applications were received for the pound;100,000-a-year post. On the final shortlist were Dame Pat Collarbone, former head of Haggerston secondary school, Hackney; Mary Marsh, head of Holland Park school, London; Professor David Reynolds from Loughborough University and Professor David Hopkins of Nottingham University.