Publishing its own manifesto for education ahead of next May's National Assembly elections, the Association for School and College Leaders Cymru said its members should be held accountable for the quality of service they provide.
But excessive bureaucracy and multiple accountabilities - to local education authorities, inspectors and government - are diverting heads from their key task of ensuring each student receives a high-quality education.
"Meeting this and other challenges requires leaders to be able to innovate and develop enterprise," said Gareth Jones, secretary of ASCL Cymru.
Speaking at the launch of the manifesto at the association's annual conference in Llandrindod Wells yesterday, he added: "Current Assembly and local government policies and practices are suffocating school leaders with red tape and pointless meetings.
"Ministers and officials must back off if schools are to concentrate on raising achievement."
The ASCL Cymru wants Wales to follow England's example, with accountability via a "single conversation" between schools and an experienced improvement partner.
It also says the five A*-C grade GCSE performance indicator should be amended to include EnglishWelsh first language and maths - again, something happening in England's performance tables this year. And it presses for more funding to keep pace with demands, such as rising exam fees.
Jane Davidson, minister for education, skills and lifelong learning, was "delighted" with the positive tone of the manifesto - which backs the Welsh baccalaureate. But she refuted ASCL's claims of interference in day-to-day management, saying guidance was intended to help heads and governors.