We are living in an uncertain, turbulent world, a world where issues of corruption, injustice, migration, poverty and acts of terrorism affect many communities, many nations. Malta is no exception. Within such a context, leaders play a critical role.

In such a context, educational leaders exhibit particular traits that include empathy, openness to different perspectives and ideas, resilience and strong communication skills.

While educational leaders are trying to navigate in these currents, they are ‒ as we have seen ‒ also faced with an educational context focused on performativity, accountability and managerialism, and we run the risk of losing sight of the moral purposiveness of our role as leaders.

As a result of the changes in the socio and political context we are living in, educational practice has changed and is continuing to do so at an incredible pace. Therefore, the role of schools in general and teachers and leaders in particular in embedding change has become even more demanding, especially in managing turbulence through what Tony Bush (2010) describes as an “avowedly ethical approach to decision-making”.

We need to engage with the values and attributes that leaders need to manifest in order to take our schools forward

The challenge for people to think and act ethically is gaining momentum but, at the same time, becoming more unclear and challenging at the personal and collective level, as they are asked to handle challenges they have never been exposed to before.

As a result, leaders have continually commented on the added pressure on them in terms of their leadership responsibilities, the teaching and learning taking place, and the administrative duties that keep piling up. Eric Hoyle and Mike Wallace (2005) compare this to a lack of awareness or appreciation of leaders and practitioners, and how they have to handle the varied contexts in which they have to implement policies.

It is possibly within this context that we can appreciate the importance of Education 5.0 and how this can impact the roles that our leaders can play.

Back in 2007, James Kouzes and Barry Posner, in their bestseller The Leadership Challenge, put forward the proposition that leadership is primarily about specific kinds of behaviour. Although each leader is a unique individual, Kouzes and Posner were convinced that there are shared patterns to the practice of leadership and that these practices can be learned.

Since then, various studies have explored the specific values, personal traits or characteristics that one looks for in a leader; or what we look for and admire in a leader. While such studies are important, I believe it is not enough to identify the values that people say they admire. It is also crucial to put one’s words into action. As Paul Wellstone put it, “never separate the life you lead from the words you speak”.

I feel we need to engage with the values and attributes that leaders need to manifest in order to take our schools forward. We need to engage with values such as passion and purpose, honesty, moral courage, moral vision, compassion and care, fairness, intellectual excellence, creative thinking and deep selflessness.

In a nutshell, the approach I am proposing is built round the principles of trust, belief, collegiality and collaboration, which, in turn, help to empower rather than disempower, to engage rather than disengage, to fill educators with confidence rather than cynicism, to create meaning in the chaos. This approach will in turn help to give value to adult learning, which is one of the main missing ingredients in the current reform and negotiating processes.

The proposals are aimed at injecting pride and belief into our profession, giving shared responsibility to educators. The strategic approach being proposed shows a determined commitment to work with and alongside educators.

The approach brings people from different institutions, occupying different positions, together, forming multidisciplinary teams when needed, to address the demands that educators in schools are facing to provide a quality education for all.

Ultimately, the choice is ours!


Christopher Bezzina is a professor at the Department of Leadership for Learning and Innovation at the University of Malta’s Faculty of Education.

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