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

Schley, W., & Schratz, M. (2004). Ergebnisorientierte Führungsverantwortung als Antwort auf PISA. Lernende Schule (Schulleitungsbeilage), 7(28), 1-4.

Schley, W., & Schratz, M. (2007). Leadership: Kraft zum neuen Denken. Innsbruck, Wien u.a.: StudienVerlag.

Schley, W., & Schratz, M. (2012). Die Zukunft gemeinsam entstehen lassen: Professionalisierung von Führungspersonen als Systemwandel. In C. Kraler, M. Schratz, H. Schnabel-Schüle, & B. Weyand (Eds.), Kulturen der Lehrerbildung: Professionalisierung eines Berufsstands im Wandel (pp. 195–209). Münster: Waxmann.

Schratz, M. (2010). Schulleitung als Leadership. In H.-G. Rolff (Ed.), Führung, Management und Steuerung (pp. 59-78). Seelze: Kallmeyer.

Schratz, M. (2004). Führen und Lernen: ein ungleiches Paar? Plädoyer für Leadership for Learning. In R. Arnold & C. Griese (Eds.), Schulleitung und Schulentwicklung: Voraussetzungen, Bedingungen, Erfahrungen (pp. 53-72). Baltmannsweiler: Schneider-Verl. Hohengehren.

Schratz, M., Hartmann, M., & Schley, W. (2010). Schule wirksam leiten. Analyse innovativer Führung in der Praxis. Münster: Waxmann.

Schratz, M., Wiesner, C., Kemethofer, D., George, A. C., Rauscher, E., Krenn, S., & Huber, S. G. (2016). Schulleitung im Wandel: Anforderungen an eine ergebnisorientierte Führungskultur. In M. Bruneforth, F. Eder, K. Krainer, C. Schreiner, A. Seel, & C. Spiel (Eds.), Nationaler Bildungsbericht Österreich 2015 Band 2: Fokussierte Analysen bildungspolitscher Schwerpunktthemen (pp. 221-262). Graz: Leykam.