Leadership redefined: What is educational leadership and why is it important?

An educational leader or teacher guiding students in class
An educational leader or teacher guiding students in class

What makes a good educational leader? The landscape is changing and with it, so is the role and need for effective leadership. Evidence shows teachers and school leaders have the greatest influence on student achievement, but gone are the days of simply implementing a curriculum in the classroom.

Educational leadership in 2024 and beyond demands the critical ability to apply theory in practice – creating inclusive environments that empower today’s teachers and students to thrive in a tech-driven world.

Historically, the need for more resources and an emphasis on academic achievement in classrooms has overshadowed the importance and development of leadership skills. But the ability to influence positive change and pioneer new teaching strategies is critical – now, more than ever.

Forward-focused universities have noticed this gap and are taking steps to close it by offering leadership specialisations in some Master of Education degrees. With units on inclusion, well-being and managerial skills, the specialisation is designed to equip educators with the unique skills needed to navigate the contemporary educational landscape.

While no one can predict the future of education, one thing we can be sure of is that it will be marked by change. Leadership skills will be the cornerstone of success as schools navigate these shifts – but which ones are most valuable and how can aspiring educational leaders cultivate them?

Below, we delve into why leadership is important in education and what makes a good leader. We also answer the core question – what is a master's in educational leadership?

What is an educational leader and why do we need them?

Educational leadership is about developing a vision and empowering educators to bring it to life by providing direction and support where needed.

In 2024, the role of an educational leader will entail:

  • Creating dynamic and optimal learning environments.
  • Promoting academic excellence across all levels of learning.
  • Encouraging a growth mindset and building confidence amongst learners.
  • Fostering collaboration and communication among peers.
  • Supporting individual needs by recognising diversity and pioneering inclusion.
  • Implementing innovative teaching strategies that adapt to tech-driven changes.

With the surge in popularity of online learning and the rapid advancements in technology, such as AI, the role of educational leaders has become increasingly essential and central to shaping a school's culture. These leaders have to advocate for the needs of students and staff, and drive innovation to meet the ever-evolving demands of education.

Strengthening educational leadership is so vital that it has been identified as a key priority by the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning. The institute states that school leaders working through a managerial lens can provide safe, inclusive and equitable learning environments. They can also help schools achieve success by improving students' academic and well-being outcomes, as well as staff cohesion and teamwork.

What makes a good educational leader?

Effective educational leadership is multifaceted, requiring a range of skills and abilities often used continuously and simultaneously.

Leaders in this space come from various work backgrounds with differing expertise, but there are certain traits that the most effective leaders share. With the right education and training, the following leadership skills can be learned.

Strategic thinking

This isn’t just about understanding current educational trends and patterns but truly grasping the future of the educational industry. Strong leaders are able to recognise opportunities for improvement and effectively craft plans for their institutions to achieve them. Strategic thinking is one of the core skills aspiring educational leaders need to hone.


Working harmoniously with faculty members, teachers, staff, parents and fellow educational leaders is key to driving positive change and achieving shared objectives. Effective educational leaders know that success is a collective effort and possess the skills to forge connections where needed most.

Problem-solving skills

Effective educational leaders excel in designing creative strategies that address the myriad of challenges schools face – from resource allocation to inclusion policies to tech adoption. Cultivating a solution-focused mindset rather than a problem-focused mindset is vital. The hallmark of successful leadership is the ability to tackle challenges with innovative solutions. Successful leaders are adaptive, adept and proactive.

Emotional awareness

Fostering a positive and inclusive learning environment is a fundamental responsibility of educational leaders and high emotional intelligence is crucial to achieving this goal. Understanding and managing your own emotions and those of others is essential for leaders to implement change and navigate inevitable challenges effectively.


The education sector is undergoing tectonic shifts driven by tech advancements, societal changes and policy reform. Leaders who can navigate these changes smoothly, adapting their strategies and approaches accordingly, thrive in their careers.

Stakeholder engagement

Effective leaders engage with various stakeholders – including students, parents, staff, the local community, and educational systems and communities. The ability to communicate effectively and authentically, understand stakeholder needs and build strong relationships that support the institution’s goals is what sets successful educational leaders apart.

Why study leadership in education?

A postgraduate specialisation in leadership is perfect for teachers or anyone in the education sector who wants to drive positive change for students, fellow educators and the wider industry. Securing senior or leadership positions in schools is the most impactful way to achieve this.

School leadership is a significant area of focus for the Australian government, so job prospects will be positive for graduates. These roles are most often higher paid and many of them require postgraduate education.

Popular educational leadership roles include:

  • Curriculum Coordinator or Specialist
  • Principal
  • Deputy Principal
  • Early Childhood Director
  • Education Assessment Specialist
  • Executive Principal
  • Executive Teacher
  • Head of Department or Faculty
  • Instructional Leader
  • School Leader
  • School Policy Adviser or Developer
  • Student Wellbeing Manager
  • Year Adviser

A master's degree opens doors to these roles, equipping leaders and aspiring leaders in education with the skills needed to excel.

Why choose a leadership specialisation with University of Canberra’s Master of Education?

If deciding to undergo a postgraduate qualification in leadership education is the most pivotal decision in your career, deciding where to complete it is a very close second.

University of Canberra (UC)’s Master of Education Online is designed specifically for educators who want to further their impact and develop advanced educational leadership skills for the industry of tomorrow. The 100% online and accelerated course offers great flexibility, making it easier for students to balance work and family commitments. Key features include:

  • Industry-leading curriculum: Gain a deep understanding of contemporary leadership theories and practices, with a differentiating focus on real-world application.
  • Expert faculty: Learn from experienced educators and leaders who have positively impacted the field of education – benefit from their knowledge and practical expertise.
  • Flexibility for full-time work: Complete your coursework on your own schedule, from any device or location, without disrupting your work and personal life.
  • Build your network: Connect with a diverse network of current and future leaders to increase collaboration and growth.

With industry-informed units such as Educational Leadership and Change, Leading and Developing Educators, and Educational Management and Administration to delve into, students are empowered to establish a holistic influence on school success.

You’ll hone the critical skills for effective leadership – strategic thinking, problem-solving skills, emotional intelligence, collaboration, adaptability – and more.

The specialisation fortifies the students’ leadership toolkit to navigate the contemporary educational landscape, empower school communities, plus support student outcomes and development in your colleagues.

The education industry needs more leaders – will you be one of them?

The education sector is on the cusp of an entirely new era – of diverse and inclusive classrooms, where tech proficiency is a baseline expectation. Both students and educators alike will be empowered to thrive in a rapidly changing employment landscape.

Schools and educational institutions need highly qualified and highly skilled leaders at the helm to ensure not only can they navigate these challenges but also create positive impacts alongside them.

A postgraduate specialisation in leadership education provides the key that unlocks many doors – whether you’re looking to climb the ladder in your current career path or skip a rung to a new position entirely. Graduates will be equipped to respond to existing and emerging challenges in education to drive positive, lasting impact where it matters most.

If you’ve ever considered redefining leadership in education, becoming a catalyst for change, or influencing the future of learning, a Master of Education may be for you.

Ready to take your education career to the next level? Gain advanced leadership skills and tools to influence positive change in modern education environments. Learn more about the Master of Education Online by visiting our website.

You can also get in touch with one of our Student Enrolment Advisers on 1300 471 770.