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High Performance Leadership of Game Changers

Dr Phil Cummins and Adriano Di Prato outline the case for a game changing approach to leadership in schools.


a School for tomorrow's

Game Changers: Leading Today’s Learning for Tomorrow’s World

The world is changing – and rapidly. If we want to foster young people’s ability to learn, live, lead and work in that changing world, the way we approach education and leadership in schools must change too.

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What a time to be an educational leader! Educational systems all over the world, including our own here in Australia, have witnessed the decline of a model for schooling created over a century ago for yesterday’s world. Students everywhere experience a static curriculum taught at a standardised pace, with one teacher teaching one subject at a time. This may have worked well for an earlier context in which the social contract for education prepared generations of young people for productive citizenship in an industrialising society. Yet, in the decades leading up to 2022 our context changed – and the powerfully disruptive era of COVID-19 has accelerated this process.

We are at a crossroads. Educational leaders can’t sit back and wait for evolution to happen to us. To create change, educational leaders must do something to transform schooling to then support the transformation of the rest of society. Action is essential. The transformation of our education systems needs to be led by game-changing educational leaders who imagine paths forward to futures that most cannot see, co-design new learning models to engage communities in powerful narratives of transformation and lead necessary changes across the field of education to create future-fit ecosystems.

Shifting our education system to meet the demands of our times will mean increasingly moving away from an industrial age, one-size-fits-all model in which teachers stand and deliver and learners sit and get. Teachers, leaders, schools, and their communities must rethink conventional learning models and rapidly build, test and pilot new structures to accommodate a completely different reality. To accomplish the necessary shift in education for a world going through exponential change, educational leaders need to refocus and change the content of our goals beyond competitive targets related to decontextualised, standardised testing that are prime for click-bait.

Over the past decade, through our global network of a School for tomorrow and its research institute CIRCLE  The Centre for Innovation, Research, Creativity and Leadership in Education, we have been engaged in a global educational research program into the character of an excellent education and high-performing schools. We have found that parents and school communities everywhere want children to graduate from school with the integrity of character shown by good people; the leadership and communication of future builders; the change readiness and innovation of continuous learners and unlearners; the creative and critical thinking of solution architects; the local, regional, and global perspective and balance of responsible citizens; and the inclusive collaboration skills and relationality of team creators.

While our existing school systems have paid some attention to achieving these outcomes, our hard-working teachers have been left to fit them into a system that was never designed for this purpose. Too many of us in schools have been held back by system paralysis. Our days are too full. The requirements seem overwhelming. We are trying to fulfil expectations for tomorrow using yesterday’s model. We end up educating without being able to truly feel for and respond to our new world environment.

At the same time, many of us can see through the challenges of the present day into a future where the possibility of something better is rapidly being drawn into sharp focus. High-performance leadership recognises that everyday life means navigating through complexity towards the future, ready for the interruptions that are imposed on us, while enjoying the good fortune with which we are blessed. The opportunity is there to do something great, if only we could all agree on what it is and how we might take that big step forward and up to make it happen.

It is clear to us at a School for tomorrow that it is time to frame a new approach to schooling that truly honours the new social contract for education: today’s learning for tomorrow’s world. We see leadership as the capacity to influence, inspire, direct, and motivate people to achieve a shared sense of purpose willingly. We believe that our children, families and colleagues in schools need educational leadership that is far-sighted and caring in its vision, bold and creative in its execution and game-changing in its impact.

We believe that there is an approach to educational leadership that might help us to put the new social contract of todays’ learning for tomorrow’s world in place. We believe that there is an inside-out developmental process of leadership formation that can help you to ask and answer the four most important questions about the character of game-changing leadership:


As you craft and recraft responses to these questions throughout your career, you will gain adaptive expertise and self-efficacy the concepts of self- awareness, relationship, service and vocation and the expression of specific leadership competencies that will help you to influence, inspire, direct, and motivate as you learn, live, lead and work in relationship with your communities of inquiry and practice.

As outlined in Table 1 you will also adopt and hone a set of six capabilities of high-performance leadership in action through which you can lead today’s learning for tomorrow’s world: strengthening, informing, orientating, focusing, aligning, and enriching:


So, are you ready to be game changers who do this work? Game changers, of course, are those who do not wait for permission. They are the brave pioneers who can see through to the future, see inside the heart of their community to form a deep intention about taking the big step forward and up to this future. Game changers can see their way through to make this happen despite the challenges and difficulties they face. They are ready to commit to an ongoing process of building self-awareness, relationship, service, and vocation through the inside-out process of development that warrants their practice as living proof of the values and value proposition of taking the big step forward and up into today’s learning for tomorrow’s world.

Ordinary people know their limits; game changers know how to push them. They are high-performing leaders who model, scaffold and coach through relationships with others at personal, tactical, strategic, and global levels. They realise that it is time to transform learning and schooling as we know it by standing up and celebrating the collective wisdom of those who know the way, go the way and show the way.

You can learn more about how you can change the game of school through high-performance leadership that strengthens, informs, orientates, focuses, aligns and enriches in, Game Changers: Leading Today’s Learning for Tomorrow’s World, now available for pre-order here.

Let’s go!

Phil & Adriano

Dr Phil Cummins FRSA FACEL FIML is the Managing Partner of a School for tomorrow, Managing Director at CIRCLE – The Centre for Innovation, Research, Creativity & Leadership in Education, Associate Professor of Education & Enterprise at Alphacrucis University College, and co-host of the Game Changers podcast series & Adriano Di Prato is a best-selling author, broadcaster, and the Academic Operations Manager at LCI Melbourne, a progressive art + design higher education institute.

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