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The Ontario Leadership Framework. The framework: describes what good leadership looks like, based on evidence of what makes the most difference to student achievement and well-being

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The ontario leadership framework

The framework:

  • describes what good leadership looks like, based on evidence of what makes the most difference to student achievement and well-being

  • identifies the practices of successful school and system leaders, as well as the organizational practices of successful schools and districts

  • includes a small but critical number of Personal Leadership Resources(leadership traits and dispositions) that have been found to increase the effectiveness of leadership practices

The ontario leadership framework1
The Ontario Leadership Framework

  • The goals of the OLF are to:

  • provide a robust research foundation on which to base the elements of the Ontario Leadership Strategy

  • help ensure that Ontario leadership practices and personal leadership resources support the key goals of improving student achievement and well-being

  • provide a common language and understanding for leaders to engage in discussions about effective practice

History of the olf
History of the OLF


  • OLF designed in 2006

  • IEL provided workshops to districts in 2008

  • Leithwood research report informed revisions to OLF in 2012:

    • No longer included competencies, now includes the addition of Personal Leadership Resources

    • Revised practices

    • Introduction of District Effectiveness Framework (DEF)

    • Connection to Student Effectiveness Framework (SEF)

History of the olf con t
History of the OLF (con’t)

In 2013

  • Strong Districts and their Leadership (Leithwood 2013)

    • Nine characteristics of strong districts and related practices

    • Two new personal leadership resources

    • Revised DEF and System-level Leadership placemats

The ontario leadership framework

Components of the OLF



Big ideas in the olf
Big Ideas in the OLF

  • Context is important

  • Leadership and Management are integrated

  • Formal leaders enact practices directly and indirectly

  • Leadership is best shared in a planned and

    coordinated way

  • System leaders and districts add significant

    value to the learning of students beyond the

    contribution of schools and classrooms

Personal leadership resources in 2012
Personal Leadership Resources in 2012

  • Cognitive resources:

    • problem-solving expertise

    • knowledge of school and classroom conditions that directly affect student learning

  • Social resources:

    • perceive emotions

    • manage emotions

    • act in emotionally appropriate ways

  • Psychological resources:

    • optimism

    • self-efficacy

    • resilience

What happened in 2013
What happened in 2013?

  • The Institute for Education Leadership (IEL) and the Council of Ontario Directors of Education (CODE) commissioned Ken Leithwood to do a research study on the role of the district leader

  • Result: “Strong Districts and Their Leadership”

  • Impact: Changes to the system-level leadership placemat, addition of two new PLRs to school and system level placemats; and changes to the DEF

The ontario leadership framework

Leadership Practices

in Schools

Scenario 1

  • It’s September, and you have just learned that because of declining enrolment you will have to cut two teachers from your staff and re-timetable the school (and you have 4 days to do it!)

  • Look at the bolded leadership practices in the School-level Leadership placemat and pick out several that you think are the most critical to solving this problem effectively

  • Highlight these practices and be prepared to defend your choices and explain your thinking

The ontario leadership framework

Leadership is Contingent

Scenario 2:

  • You are a candidate in a principal interview. You are asked to state what your entry plan would be if you were appointed to a specific school in your district.

  • How would you apply the idea of “contingent leadership” to this question?

  • What are the look-fors in your answer?

The ontario leadership framework

Shared Leadership

Scenario 3:

Think of a principal for whom you have worked who Demonstrated excellent “shared leadership” practices.

  • Find a few practices in the framework that reflect what this principal did to be so effective.

  • What were this principal’s strongest personal leadership resources and how did he/she demonstrate these?

  • As a teacher in this school, why was this important?

  • Have you made mistakes or witnessed mistakes in sharing leadership that you have learned from?

System level leadership
System-level Leadership

  • System leaders start with the school level practices

  • System-Level leadership practices organized by the 9 characteristics of strong districts

  • Note the use of verbs to describe the practices (what leaders do)

  • Sub-bullets provide more detail of how these practices are carried out

Two new plrs
Two New PLRs

  • Proactivity

    • Ability to stimulate and manage change on a large scale under complex circumstances

    • Show initiative and perseverance in bringing about change

  • Systems-thinking

    • Ability to understand dense, complex and reciprocal connections among different elements of the organization

    • Foresight to engage others in likely futures and consequences for action

      * proactivity and systems thinking are important for all leaders but especially useful for district leaders

The ontario leadership framework

System-Level Leadership Placemat

Referencing one of the highlighted practices in the System-Level leadership placemat, unpack the practice:

  • What does it mean?

  • How would it be enacted?

  • What are the look-fors?


How will proactivity and/or systems thinking be

helpful in carrying out your role as a system leader?

How can you foster proactivity and systems

thinking in other leaders?

District effectiveness framework
District Effectiveness Framework

Characteristics of Strong Districts:

  • Shared mission, vision and goals

  • Coherent instructional guidance system

  • Multiple sources of evidence to inform decisions

  • Learning-oriented organizational improvement

  • Job-embedded professional learning

  • Resources and structures aligned with mission

  • Comprehensive leadership development

  • Policy-oriented board of trustees

  • Productive working relationships

District effectiveness framework def
District Effectiveness Framework (DEF)

  • 9 characteristics of strong districts

  • Note the use nouns to describe these characteristics

    • e.g. mission, guidance system, use of evidence, etc.

  • Sub-bullets provide more detail about what the characteristic looks like in practice

Def learning oriented organizational improvement
DEF: Learning-oriented Organizational Improvement

  • Coherent approach to improvement, small number of goals, consistently pursued over sustained time

  • Integration of new initiatives into existing routines

  • Professional learning networks to share, assess and refine


  • How can you influence the discussions in your district to support the characteristic, “Learning-oriented organizational improvement processes”?

    Think about:

    • Advocacy for leaders in carrying out

      the district mission and vision

    • Sense-making

    • Leadership development needs -

      organizationally and individually

      What is your role as system leader?

      How do you connect with other district leaders?

Activity cont d consider the following
Activity (cont’d)Consider the following …

  • How do you exert your influence?

  • What does it look like when you do so?

  • Are there ways that you could strengthen this influence?

  • Who else should you talk to in your district?

  • What are the vehicles and venues through which one can influence? (Adm. Council meetings, BIPSA meetings, PPA, principals’ meetings)

  • What is the impact on organizational leadership if you are not at some of the district tables – how would you connect with other district leaders?

    What Fullan calls “coherence making” involves seeking a balance between letting go and even encouraging “disturbance” on the one hand and on the other hand building coherence, sense and direction.

The ontario leadership framework

For more information, please visit the IEL website at: