Seven strong claims about successful school leadership

by Kenneth Leithwood, Christopher Day, Pam Sammons, Alma Harris, and David Hopkins

In 2006, the authors reviewed literature about successful school leadership. They summarised the key findings as seven strong claims.  

In 2019, three of the authors revisited the original review, testing the validity of the claims using strong empirical evidence from the intervening years. They found that the claims held true to a great extent. They revised claims 1, 4 and 7.

The revised seven claims are:

1, revised: School leadership has a significant effect on features of the school organisation which positively influences the quality of teaching and learning. While moderate in size, this leadership effect is vital to the success of most school improvement efforts.

2: Almost all successful leaders draw on the same repertoire of basic leadership practices.

3: The ways in which leaders apply these basic leadership practices – not the practices themselves – demonstrate responsiveness to, rather than dictation by, the contexts in which they work.

4, revised: School leadership improves teaching and learning, indirectly and most powerfully, by improving the status of significant key classroom and school conditions and by encouraging parent-child interactions in the home that further enhance student success at school. 

5: School leadership has a greater influence on schools and students when it is widely distributed.

6: Some patterns of distribution are more effective than others.

7, revised: While further research is required, a well-defined set of cognitive, social and psychological "personal leadership resources" show promise of explaining a high proportion of variation in the practices enacted by school leaders.

Reflective questions

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

  • Several of the strong claims have implications for relationship management. What are the relationship characteristics of effective leaders with whom you have worked?
  • Claims 5 and 6 mention distributed leadership. Which of the patterns of distribution seem to be the most effective? How do they work in your school and what do they achieve?


Leithwood, K., Day, C., Sammons, P., Harris, A., & Hopkins, D. (2006). Seven strong claims about successful school leadershipEngland: NCSL.

Leithwood, K., Harris, A., & Hopkins, D. (2019): Seven strong claims about successful school leadership revisited. School Leadership & Management, DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2019.1596077. Accessed from, July 2020.

Further reading

Successful school leadership – Education Development Trust

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