School leaders' and teachers' leadership perceptions: differences and similarities

Ellen Daniëls, Annie Hondeghem, Jan Heystek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The purpose of this paper is to offer insight into school leaders' and teachers' perspectives on leadership behaviour and its impact on their mutual relationships. Research papers that include perspectives from both school leaders and teachers are relatively scarce in the field of education. However, it is important to take account of both perspectives because if they align, school leaders can be expected to be more successful. Moreover, positive teacher perceptions about school leaders result in lower levels of teacher burnout and enhanced teacher collaboration.

The current study employed qualitative data drawn from 24 primary schools in Belgium. The data set was assembled from 24 interviews with school leaders and 22 focus groups with teachers. The research analyses the interviews and focus groups from an inductive approach in order to let theory emerge, to refine existing theories in the field of education and to get an in-depth understanding of agreements and disagreements in the perspectives of school leaders and teachers.

The results show that school leaders and teachers perceive school leadership principally as relation- and task-oriented. However, there are differences in the perceptions about the subcategories of relation-oriented behaviour between school leaders and teachers. School leaders refer to consulting with members when making decisions and providing feedback. On the other hand, teachers indicate the importance of support and encouragement and recognition. The perceptions of the relationships between school leaders and teachers seem to match, with both valuing trust, openness and contribution.

This study addresses the relative scarcity of research relating to school leaders’ and teachers’ perspectives regarding school leadership. The study clarifies concepts in order to facilitate further research on school leaders' effectiveness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-660
JournalJournal of Educational Administration
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Leadership in education
  • Leadership behaviour
  • Perceived leadership
  • Self-perceived leadership
  • Leader-member exchange
  • Leader-member relationship
  • Primary education


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