The Asia-Pacific Education Researcher

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 835–850 | Cite as

Ecological Leadership: Going Beyond System Leadership for Diffusing School-Based Innovations in the Crucible of Change for 21st Century Learning

  • Yancy Toh
  • Azilawati Jamaludin
  • Wei Loong David Hung
  • Paul Meng-Huat Chua
Regular Article


Driven by the impetus for the school system as a whole to actualize deep twenty-first century learning, innovation diffusion has become increasingly an important vehicle for isolated pockets of successes to proliferate beyond the locale of the individual schools to form connected clusters of improvement at a greater scale. This paper articulates an ecological leadership model for enabling such system-wide innovation diffusion in the context of Singapore. Through the explication of leadership practices demonstrated by two exemplar schools that have successfully levelled up their school-based innovation, we argue that ecological leaders have to go beyond system leadership to think and act in a more encompassing way. Specifically, ecological leaders have to embody systems thinking and East-Asian collectivist beliefs to benefit other schools, converge and contextualize the kernel of innovation, align efforts by mitigating tensions and paradoxes within and across the subsystems in the ecology, leverage on resources in the ecology and manage the emergent dynamics engendered through interactions with multi-level actors. These five thrusts cut across the five dimensions of ecology: microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem and chronosystem. With the favourable socio-political climate that encourages collaboration rather than competition, we posit that leaders can endeavour to forge ecological coherence. This can be achieved by establishing synergistic structural and socio-cultural connections within and across the five subsystems of influences underpinning the hub school and networks of innovation-adopting schools, thus bringing forth transformative changes in the system.


Ecological leadership Systems leadership Scaling and diffusion Ecological coherence School-based innovations East-Asian collectivism 


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Copyright information

© De La Salle University 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yancy Toh
    • 1
  • Azilawati Jamaludin
    • 1
  • Wei Loong David Hung
    • 1
  • Paul Meng-Huat Chua
    • 1
  1. 1.Office of Education Research, National Institute of EducationNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

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