Successful Leadership in Rural Schools: Cultivating Collaboration

Jane Preston, Kristopher E. R. Barnes


This article is a literature review of the professional competencies and personal qualities commonly associated with successful leadership in rural schools. Multiple definitions of the term rural are provided. A delimitation of this research is that findings reflect literature published from 2005–2015, positioning this document as a current analysis of rural leadership. A limitation of the article is that the research predominantly emanates from rural American, Canadian, and Australian settings, restricting a global application of results. The findings are represented via two overarching themes. Successful rural principals promote people focused relationships with staff, students, parents, and community members. Second, rural principals have the opportunity to be agents of change through balancing local and district policies and through enacting instructional leadership. At the root, both of these themes reveal the importance of rich collaboration with members of the school community. This research is pertinent to researchers, government leaders, policymakers, school leaders, teachers, parents, and community members interested in understanding and responding to the demands of rural schools.


successful rural principals; benefits of rural partnership; document analysis


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