The five new rules of leadership

by Pamela Macklin


In this article, Macklin provides thoughts on what makes a really strong and effective school leader and a list of “leadership wisdoms” that are challenging, even provocative. She does this through drawing together successful models of leadership from political and business sources, as well as education. 

This was the closing speech at a 2004 Australian conference on leadership called Breaking the Leadership Rules. It refers to other speakers and pulls the threads of the conference together. Because it was a spoken delivery, the style has clarity, and it is informal and easy to read.

Macklin emphasises the need for school leaders to be skilled as managers, particularly in knowing how to manage complex school environments and how to get the most value out of the system. She argues that this is at least as important as being leaders of teaching and learning. She also stresses the importance of leaders being able to manage people effectively in positive and firm ways.

Macklin argues that principals must be seen to be 'doing'. They need to be “transparent about their efforts to improve their own performance … [which is] an indicator of a key character strength essential for outstanding leadership”.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might guide you in your reading of this article:

  • What did this article confirm for you about effective strategies that you are currently using? Can you identify one new idea that you feel inspired to try?
  • What do you think about the idea that effective leaders should spend a lot of time feeling 'pissed off'? What lies behind her thinking on this matter and do you agree?
  • What for you is the appropriate balance between being an effective manager and being an expert on teaching and learning? How do you think your staff view this issue?

Further reading

Curriculum and Closing the Assessment Gap, Curriculum Corporation 12th National Conference, Brisbane, June 2005.

Fullan, M. (2002, September). Moral Purpose Writ Large. The School Administrator Web Edition.


Macklin, P. (2004, October). Breaking the leadership rules. Paper presented at the 11th national Curriculum Corporation Conference, Hobart. Reproduced with permission.

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