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Exploring middle-level school leadership styles through role-play simulations

Geva Iftach (Department of Educational Administration, Leadership and Policy, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel)
Orly Shapira-Lishchinsky (Department of Educational Administration, Leadership and Policy, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 10 January 2023

Issue publication date: 2 February 2023




The study's main goal is to investigate different leadership styles that characterize middle-level leaders, the intermediate leadership tier of role holders in school, as they practice leadership scenarios through active participation in a professional learning process of role-play simulation, using a social-ecological approach.


Thirty middle-level leaders from different Israeli high schools and districts participated in the study during an M.A. course in an educational leadership program. The authors used qualitative analysis to examine role-play simulations of leadership scenarios based on group debriefings. This content analysis was conducted within a two-dimensional theoretical framework composed of leadership style theory and a social-ecological model.


The study findings address four main leadership styles: authentic, transformational, participative and transactional. Regarding their appearance within different social-ecological layers, the interpersonal layer was the most salient one with a prominent appearance of transformational and authentic leadership styles. On the organizational and communal layers, authentic leadership was more prominent. The study findings demonstrate multidimensionality in both the leadership styles and social-ecological layers, as different styles appeared in different layers concurrently.

Practical implications

The findings may help articulate the nature and characteristics of middle-level school leadership. They may also provide relevant theoretical content and instructional strategy to develop simulation-based preparation programs for middle-level leaders.


The study findings highlight unique leadership characteristics of middle-level school leaders and suggest a contextual perception of their leadership styles within a social-ecological framework.



The present study is part of a larger research project on middle-level leaders using a social-ecological approach.


Iftach, G. and Shapira-Lishchinsky, O. (2023), "Exploring middle-level school leadership styles through role-play simulations", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 61 No. 2, pp. 108-125.



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