Innovations That Inspire

Educational Leadership Program

Recognition Year(s): 2021
School: ISM University of Management and Economics
Location: Lithuania

The Educational Leadership program is a collaborative project that aims to develop leadership and management competencies of high school principals in Lithuania.

Call to Action

Researchers and practitioners recognize the role of school principals in building high-performance schools. Development of school leadership has become a priority in Lithuanian education policy in recent years. However, according to data provided by the municipalities in Lithuania, the situation is critical, as currently over 200 high schools in Lithuania have vacancies for school principal positions, which inhibits consistent planning of human and financial resources, establishment of priorities, implementation of innovations in learning and teaching processes, and, consequently, execution of schools’ missions.

The analyses of principal shortages identified that, first, candidates aspiring to take on leadership responsibilities do not pass qualification tests because of the lack of managerial and leadership skills, such as critical thinking, creativity, change management, and the ability to lead a school reform process and act as leaders of school improvement. Second, potential candidates who are encouraged by the municipalities to go through the testing refuse to do so as they do not feel adequately equipped with the competencies needed for the principalship.

Thus, understanding the importance of high schools in the country’s educational ecosystem and the role school leaders play in preparing students for their further studies, ISM University of Management and Economics, with the support of six municipalities and three business organizations, undertook the challenge of developing a program that would integrate leadership and management capabilities as vital competencies for educational leaders, as many of the culture-building and culture-shaping aspects of the job are accomplished through combining leadership and management.


The Educational Leadership program started in 2012 as a part of the bigger Time for Leaders project initiated by the Center of School Improvement and the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport. ISM was the only university in Lithuania that won state funding and the right to prepare and deliver the Educational Leadership program for five student groups. Three hundred and sixty graduates completed the program under this initiative. When the funding ended in the spring of 2020, the impact that the program had on school leaders and school performance results, as well as feedback from the program graduates, encouraged ISM to look for support from businesses and municipalities to continue this initiative.

Currently 76 educational managers with post-graduation and relevant work experience are enrolled in the program. The program aims to develop socially responsible educational leaders who have an understanding and critical appreciation of the theories, tools, and techniques of management and leadership, thus enabling them to implement a leadership mission for learning more effectively in organizations.

The program is innovative in how it combines best practices in management and leadership development from the business sector with the educational needs of in-practice and pre-service managers of educational institutions. The program employs a variety of active teaching and learning methods: classroom sessions are supplemented by guest lectures, action-learning projects, company and school visits, workshops, simulations, case studies, and many such activities that ensure that learners are exposed to a variety of experience outside the school environment and are able to adapt best practices in their own environment.


Based on the analysis performed by the Center of School Improvement, out of 360 program graduates, 50 percent had positive career changes, 30 percent were promoted to leadership positions in their schools, and the schools that employ ISM leadership graduates demonstrated a substantial improvement in students’ learning results and social and personal competencies.

The European Commission’s Education and Training Monitor 2019 acknowledged the Time for Leaders project and the Educational Leadership program as good examples of an integrated system for developing leadership skills at all education levels. Former minister of Education, Science and Sport, Algirdas Monkevicius, recognized the importance of the program in dealing with the shortage of school principals.

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