the visible leader

School leaders are highly visible. They stand at the front of school assemblies and speech nights in full view of parents, staff and students.  Their photo appears in school prospectuses and school websites. They meet and greet visitors and represent their school at all manner of gatherings. They may even find themselves interviewed by the media, their person beamed all over the region, perhaps even the world.

It is little wonder that with this much exposure, the wardrobe choices that leaders make matter.

Having said that, not all leaders respond in the same way to possible critical appraisal of their “self”  – and by implication, their school.

It’s clear that there are a number of possible ways to deal with visibility. Here’s a few of the most obvious:

  • In order to avoid any negative views of the school and me, I will wear the most professional clothing I can manage.
  • In order to deal with the critical stare of others I will choose clothing that makes me feel good, and feel powerful.
  • I feel a bit like an imposter in this job so I wear clothes that work as a protective armour.


  • I want people to see that I am my own person and do the job my way, so I  choose clothing that expresses my individuality.
  • I want people to know that I am likely to get down on my knees with children at any time of the day so my wardrobe is always practical.
  • I don’t think what anyone wears is particularly important – neat, clean and ordinary is good enough.
  • I want the focus to be on the school not on me, so unspectacular professional clothing is what’s needed.

These are all responses that we saw in our survey. But we are sure that there are other views too.

We hope to get around to interviews at some point so we can hear what else people have to say. We are however having some difficulty in finding some funding for this stage of the process – but we do hope to move on from documents and the survey at some point soon.