Outstanding heads drawn from some of the toughest schools in England are to act as advisers to ministers and the National College for School Leadership (NCSL).
The National Leaders of Education register will detail heads working in "challenging or complex" schools or willing to help schools in tough circumstances.
The idea was suggested by the NCSL and included in the recent education white paper.
Steve Munby, chief executive of the leadership college, said heads wanted recognition more than financial incentives.
Writing in today's TES, he says: "This is NOT about the 'hero-headteacher'.
If we're to bring new hope to pupils who our system is currently failing we need to think seriously about how to persuade more of the best leaders to view success differently - to see the pinnacle of their careers as success in the toughest schools."
The white paper says the heads will work with the college and influence its work across the education system.
The NCSL said it had not decided how many heads would be picked or whether they would receive any financial rewards but it was likely to start choosing them in the summer of next year.
The college stressed the status could be given to heads in leafier areas, providing they were willing to work with colleagues at schools in more challenging circumstances.
Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Headteachers in schools on leafy lanes have challenges as well. They can have much pushier parents who've planned what university their child is going to by the time they are five. Headteachers in shire counties who work with tiny budgets will find it deeply irritating if they are not eligible.
"Care is also needed so being picked for the register doesn't smack of being a teacher's pet."
platform 21 www.ncsl.org.uk