Educational leaders as Change Agents

In a school system created in the past, what is the leadership challenge to educate today’s young generation for an unkown tomorrow? This is not a new question: School as institution and educational leaders as actors have always been torn within the field of tension between preservation (school as a place of reproducation) and change (school as a place of transformation).

And in this balancing situation – what is worth taking from the past, what is necessary to bring for the future – it is school leaders who care for that with the overall objectives of the school system in mind. A school system’s performance is based on an understanding of the different situations, contexts, demands and challenges within each organizational unit. Therefore, policymakers, researchers and school leaders themselves – at all levels – need to feel responsible for developing shared leadership throughout the system, which is necessary to meet the current challenges within the field of tension. All leaders’ collective wisdom in thinking and acting shapes future steps in national school reform. The hardest part of educational change is how to make it last and spread, which calls for coherent activities that bridge policy and practice.


The Austrian Leadership Academy is is an initiative which brings together key actors from all levels in the system facilitates focusing on greater coherence in system development. It offers innovation training for head teachers as well as for education management personnel from all types of educational institution. The Academy is based on an understanding of leadership that focuses on dialogue and providing excellent education and personal formation (Leadership for Learning). Leadership is regarded as the capacity to promote the quality of education on offer and to show initiative, creativity, courage, conviction, persuasiveness and confidence in the capacity for innovation already present in the system. The Leadership Academy (LEA) holds four three-day fora each year. At every forum, participants reach a new milestone on the way to membership of the Academy. Successful graduation and admission to membership of the Academy is decided on during the certification process at the fourth forum. The LEA course includes: Plenum meetings with motivational impulse lectures (full assembly); Workshops in collegial coaching groups; reflection on innovation and development of project ideas (groups of six); Learning partnership sessions for the exchange of ideas and collegial brainstorming; Workshops in regional groups (Federal State) for regional net-working and for the presentation and exchange of ideas. The Academy began in November 2004 with 300 participants. The fourteenth generation graduates in October 2018 and contributes to the creation of a large-scale LEA Membership Network, which links all the educational institutions in Austria. So far more than 3,000 professional educators have participated in the Leadership Academy.

Further reading

Wiesner, C. & Schratz, M. (2019). Principalship in Austria: Balancing Accountability and Improvement. In S. Ševkušić, D. Malinić & J. Teodorović (Eds.), Leadership in Education. Initiatives and trends in selected European countries (pp. 11–30). Belgrade: Institute of Educational Research.


Gregorzewski, M., Schratz, M., & Wiesner, C. (2018). Exploring the Personal Mastery of Educational Leaders: FieldTransFormation360 and its Validation in the Austrian Leadership Academy. Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal, 8(3), 59–78.


Rößler, L., & Schratz, M. (2018). Leadership for learning: Teacher leaders as mediators for school-wide innovation and change. In J. Madalińska-Michalak (Ed.), Teacher leadership: Areas: Educational Leadership and Change, Perspectives and inspirations, International Perspective (pp. 282–303). Warsaw: Foundation for the Development of the Education System.


Hall, W. Møller, J. & Serpieri, R. (2017). From Welfarism to Neo-Liberalism: Conceptualizing the Diversity of Leadership Models in Europe. In. D. Waite & E. Bogotch (Eds.), The International Handbook of Educational Leadership (pp. 311-334). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017.


Schratz, M. (2016). Austria: Overcoming a Bureaucratic Heritage as a Trigger for Research on Leadership in Austria. In H. Ärlestig, C. Day, O. Johansson (Eds.), A Decade of Research on School Principals (pp. 307-329). Cham: Springer International.


Schratz, M. (2015). Developing Leaders, Building Networks, Changing Schools through System Leadership. In: Le Chéile, Journal of the National association of principals and deputy principals 9, 56-59.


Schratz, M. (2014). The Dean as cultural leader. In R.T. Clift et al. (Ed.), Inside the Role (pp. 99-116). London, New York: Routledge, 2015.


Schratz, M., A. Laiminger, F. Mac Kay, et al. (2013). The art and science of leading a school. Budapest: Komaromi Nyomda es Kiado Kft., 2013.


Schratz, M. (2013). Beyond the reach of leading: Exploring the realm of leadership and learning. In Craig, J. Cheryl et al. (Eds.), From Teacher Thinking to Teachers and Teaching: The Evolution of a Research Community (pp. 339-356). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing,


Schley, W. & Schratz, M. (2011). Leaders, Building Networks, Changing Schools Through System Leadership. In T. Townsend & J. MacBeath (Eds.), International Handbook of Leadership for Learning. Part 1 (pp. 267-296). Dordrecht: Springer, 2011, S. 267-296.


Møller, J. & Schratz, M. (2008). Leadership Development in Europe. In J. Lumby, G. Crow & P. Pashiardis (Eds), International Handbook on the Preparation and Development of School Leaders (pp. 341-366). New York and London: Routledge.


Schratz, M. & Huber, S. (2004). Austria: Mandatory Training according to State Guidelines.. In: S. Huber (Ed.), Preparing School Leaders fort he 21st Century. An International Comparison of Development Programs in 15 Countries (pp. 199-209). London: RoutledgeFalmer.


Schratz, M. & Huber, S. (2004). Qualifying for ‘Dirigente’ at a Government-Selected Private Provider. In: S. Huber (Ed.), Preparing School Leaders fort he 21st Century. An International Comparison of Development Programs in 15 Countries (pp. 210-217). London: RoutledgeFalmer.


Schratz, M. (1998). Managing Schools in Austria. In B. T. Peck & H. A. Ramsay (Eds.): Managing Schools: The European Experience (pp. 23-29). New York: Nova Science Publishers, 1998,