Leadership Strategies in Diverse Intake Environments


  • Brit Bolken Ballangrud usn
  • Jan-Merok Paulsen




leadership strategies, low-performing schools, systemic school organization, capacity building, trust


The case study subjected in this paper was designed to illuminate how school leadership strategies and interventions mediate external demands, in the form of the academic press, for raised outcomes, imposed from the policy environment on a school with a heterogeneous pupil population. The Norwegian research site is situated in a demographic environment of low pupil socioeconomic status, a group of factors that in other systems predicts 60%—70% of academic achievement. More specifically, the intake environment in which the school is situated is characterized by high ethnic heterogeneity and, for some parts, low scores on parents’ social welfare indicators. Data was collected from a school characterized as low performing, defined by pupil achievement on national tests, yet these outcomes had been progressing over time. Find-ings are based on observations as well as interviews with school leaders, teachers, the superintendent in the municipality, and pupils, together with a pupil survey. The paper analyzes various leadership strategies and interventions as mediating functions between the external academic press from the school district level and the internal cultural context of the school. Specifically, the findings suggest that building a core culture of inclusive ethos for all pupils, paired with pedagogical collaboration, and democratic and servant leadership, are important devices for mastering this form of diversity. The leadership practices and collaborative focus were furthermore anchored in a systemic and more integrative school organization that purposefully com-bined hierarchical structure with horizontal elements in a matrix-like design.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...


Aas, M., & Brandmo, C. (2016). Revisiting instructional and transformational leadership. The contemporary Norwegian context of school leadership. Journal of Educational Administration, 54(1), 92–110. https://doi.org/10.1108/JEA-08-2014-0105

Andersen, F. C. (2013). Leadership in a linguistically and ethnically diverse upper secondary school – Responding to challenges. Nordic Studies of Education, 33(1), 31–49.

Bakken, A., & Elstad, J. I. (2012). Store forventinger - Kunnskapsløfte og forskjeller i grunnskolekarakterer (NOVA-Rapport 7/2012). Oslo: NOVA. https://doi.org/10.7577/nova/rapporter/2012/7

Eisner, E. W. (1991). The Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and the Enhancement of Educational Practice. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Falk, I. (2003). Designing effective leadership interventions: a case study of vocational education and training. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 24(4), 193–203. https://doi.org/10.1108/01437730310478066

Hermansen, A. S., & Birkelund, G. E. (2015). The Impact of Immigrant Classmates on Educational Outcomes. Social Forces, 94(2), 615–646. https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/sov073

Johansson, O., & Quing, G. (2012). Sustaining school performance: school contexts matter. International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice, 16(3), 301–326. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603124.2012.732242

Leithwood, K., & Jantzi, D. (2000). The effects of transformational leadership on organisational conditions and student engagement. Journal of Educational Administration, 38(2), 112–132. https://doi.org/10.1108/09578230010320064

Leithwood, K., & Louis, K. S. (2012). Linking Leadership to Student Learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Leithwood, K., Mascall, R., Strauss, T., Sacks, R., Memon, N., & Yaskina, G. (2006). Distributing leadership to make schools smarter: Taking the ego out of the system. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 6(1), 37–67. https://doi.org/10.1080/15700760601091267

Lipsky, M. (1980). Street-Level Bureaucracy. Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services. New York: Russell Sage.

Louis, K. S., Mayrowetz, D., Smylie, M., & Murphy, J. (2009). The Role of Sensemaking and Trust in Developing Distributed Leadership. In A. Harris (Ed.), Distributed Leadership (pp. 157–180). Dordrecht: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9737-9_9

Louis, K. S., Murphy, J., & Smylie, M. (2016). Caring Leadership in Schools: Findings From Exploratory Analyses. Educational Administration Quarterly, 52(2), 310–348. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013161X15627678

Maaløe, E. (2002). Casestudier af og om mennesker i organisationer. Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag AS.

March, J. G. (1991). Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning. Organization Science, 2(1), 71–87. https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.2.1.71

Marks, H. M., & Louis, K. S. (1999). Teacher Empowerment and the Capacity for Organizational Learning. Educational Administration Quarterly, Vol 35(Supplemental), 707–750. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013161X99355003

Okilwa, N., & Barnett, B. (2017). Sustaining school improvement in a high-need school. Longitudinal analysis of Robbins Elementary School (USA) from 1993 to 2015. Journal of Educational Administration, 55(3), 297–315. https://doi.org/10.1108/JEA-03-2016-0034https://doi.org/10.1108/JEA-03-2016-0034

Paulsen, J. M., & Hjertø, K. B. (2014). Exploring individual-level and group-level levers for inter-organizational knowledge transfer. The Learning Organization, 21(4), 274–287. https://doi.org/10.1108/TLO-09-2013-0044

Paulsen, J. M., Hjertø, K. B., & Thiveräinen, S. (2016). Exploring the Moral and Distributive Levers for Teacher Empowerment in the Finnish Policy Culture. International Journal of Educational Management, 30(6), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEM-02-2015-0015

Paulsen, J. M., & Høyer, H. C. (2016). External Control and Professional Trust in Norwegian School Governing: Synthesis from a Nordic Research Project. Nordic Studies in Education, 36(2), 86–102. https://doi.org/10.18261/issn.1891-5949-2016-02-02

Robinson, V. M. J., Lloyd, C., & Rowe, K. (2008). The impact of leadership on student outcomes: An analysis of the differential effects of leadership types. Educational Administration Quarterly, 44(5), 635–674. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013161X08321509

Rousseau, D. M., Sitkin, S. B., Burt, R. S., & Camerer, C. (1998). Not so different after all: A cross-discipline view of trust. Academy of Management Review, 23, 393–404. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.1998.926617

Spillane, J. P., Camburn, E. M., & Pareja, A. S. (2009). School Principals at Work: A Distributed Perspective. In K. Leithwood, B. Mascall, & T. Strauss (Eds.), Distributed Leadership According to the Evidence. New York: Routledge.

Sørhaug, T. (1996). Om ledelse. Makt og tillit i moderne organisering. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

Tschannen-Moran, M., & Gareis, C. R. (2015). Faculty trust in the principal: an essential ingredient in high-performing schools. Journal of Educational Administration, 53(1), 66–92. https://doi.org/10.2307/1170781

Tschannen-Moran, M., & Hoy, W. K. (2000). A Multidisciplinary Analysis of the Nature, Meaning, and Measurement of Trust. Review of Educational Research, 70(4), 547–593. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013161X03253411

Witziers, B., Bosker, R. J., & Krüger, M. L. (2003). Educational Leadership and Student Achievements: The Elusive Search for an Association. Educational Administration Quarterly, 39(3), 398–425. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013161X03253411




How to Cite

Ballangrud, B. B., & Paulsen, J.-M. (2018). Leadership Strategies in Diverse Intake Environments. Nordic Journal of Comparative and International Education (NJCIE), 2(2-3), 103–118. https://doi.org/10.7577/njcie.2784