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Superintendent leadership under shifting governance regimes
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Principal Development. Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Principal Development. Uppsala Universitet .
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2014 (English)In: International Journal of Educational Management, ISSN 0951-354X, Vol. 28, no 7, 813-822 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]


The purpose of this paper is to analyse the superintendent position, its relation to the local political system and the function as superior of principals in the school district in order to illuminate important district-level conditions for student learning. Influences from historical legacies and policy cultures are investigated by means of cross-country case analyses.


This paper is based on data from national surveys of superintendent leadership in Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway.


A key point is the observation of a mix-mode system of hard and soft governance. Municipalities, schools, teachers and pupils are – in different degrees across the Nordic countries – subjected to external evaluation and assessment by central control agencies, where the streams of reports, assessments and performance data are assembled. However, shifts in the governance systems are only modestly reflected in the self-reports on the superintendents’ role. Overall, superintendents in the cases express a self-preferred leadership style as professional learning facilitators who focus on pupil orientation, which positions the superintendent in “crossfires” between conflicting stakeholder demands.

Research limitations/implications

The paper reinforces the importance of superintendent leadership in local school governance. It underscores the importance that superintendents facilitate learning conditions for school leaders, teachers and students, which we see as a promising path for further research.


The paper provides empirical evidence regarding superintendent leadership situated in local social and political contexts within the Nordic countries. The cross-country analysis illuminates how path-pendent historical legacies mediate current reform trends.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2014. Vol. 28, no 7, 813-822 p.
Keyword [en]
Quality assurance, School governance, School principals, Educational governance, Superintendent leadership, School district
National Category
Political Science Educational Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-93745DOI: 10.1108/IJEM-07-2013-0103OAI: diva2:750995
Available from: 2014-09-30 Created: 2014-09-30 Last updated: 2015-05-11Bibliographically approved

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Johansson, OlofNihlfors, Elisabet
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Centre for Principal DevelopmentDepartment of Political Science
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