System leadership within NSW public education

System leadership is important in developing the capabilities of leaders in a strategic way to enhance leader, teacher and student learning.


This paper published in August 2020 by the School Leadership Institute (SLI), examines the meaning and importance of system leadership within NSW public education. It provides a cohesive, thorough definition of the concept of system leadership and brings together the research and evidence to support its effectiveness in lifting student achievement.

This paper can be used to help develop future programs aimed at developing and embedding system leadership in our school system.

What is system leadership?

System leadership is a shared commitment to fostering collaborative networks within and across the system to generate improvement.

It is characterised by being outward looking, connected and forward thinking, driving sustained improvement and shared responsibility at a local and system level.

It means leaders and teachers having a focus beyond their own school gate.

System leadership and leadership development

This paper outlines the emerging research into the importance of system leadership. A focus on system leadership results in improvements in teaching and learning, and a strong emphasis on leadership development.

The SLI will continue to provide opportunities for collaboration and system leadership in our programs - for example, in the role of Principal Facilitators who share their expertise and experience with participants in the Middle Leadership Development Program (MLDPP, the Senior Leadership - Aspiring Principals Leadership Program (SL-APLP) the Growing Great Leaders (GGL) program, as well as induction conferences. This will result in long-term benefits for school and system improvement.

Download the System Leadership paper

Further reading

Visit the SLI's Leadership Resources pages (available to staff only) to find out more about the leadership development programs we offer for current and aspiring leaders in NSW public schools.

More information

For more information, contact the School Leadership Institute at


  • Teaching and learning


  • Leadership and management

Business Unit:

  • School Leadership Institute
Return to top of page Back to top