Balancing Leaders' Control and Teachers' Professional Autonomy: The Case of Successful Schools.

Adam Nir, Adi Ben-David, Dan Inbar, Ronit Bogler, Anat Zohar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the most controversial issues in the literature discussing school management and leadership relates to the proper balance between leaders' control and teachers' professional autonomy. Research offers a variety of findings indicating the benefits and shortcomings of each strategy. The literature is less clear about the exact balance that should exist between the two perspectives for school success. Focusing on successful schools recognised for their good reputation and students' academic performance, the current study attempts to identify schools' mechanisms and routines and explore how these opposing patterns of leadership coexist. The study is based on case studies conducted in four Israeli elementary schools recognised for their success. Data collection included semi-structured interviews, observations and the analysis of school documents. Our data analysis revealed that the powerful authority of school leaders and the pedagogical autonomy of the teachers coexist in harmony in these schools based on five dual-balancing mechanisms embedded in various school routines. It appears that schools' success is not merely a result of the instructional leadership of the school principal, but rather follows leaders' ability to create school routines that translate their managerial perspectives to mechanisms allowing teachers' pedagogical freedom to evolve. Implications are further discussed.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)124-143
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Studies in Educational Administration
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • SCHOOL administrators
  • EDUCATIONAL leadership
  • SCHOOL principals
  • leaders' control
  • principals
  • professional autonomy
  • Successful schools
  • teachers


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