Charisma helps build success

8th August 2008 at 01:00

A leading advocate of spreading leadership throughout a school still believes there is a role for the charismatic headteacher.

Alma Harris, who holds the chair in educational leadership at London University's Institute of Education, believes a teacher who leads by the force of his or her personality is the best person to turn around a failing school.

The concept of the charismatic headteacher is becoming unfashionable as the idea of "distributed leadership", which requires a head to tap into all teachers' and pupils' ability to lead, rapidly takes hold in Scottish schools.

Professor Harris, speaking in Edinburgh recently at the International Summer School on School Leadership, says distributed leadership is a common denominator in schools that sustained improvement over a five-year period - but not a catch-all solution. "Distributed leadership is not a form of that will work in a school in crisis."

She believes more "autocratic" leaders are best able to reverse the "downward spiral" in such schools; only after the situation improves would distributive leadership be more effective.

Professor Harris says distributive leadership does not mean everyone leads, "but everyone has the potential to lead in the right conditions".

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