Team3 School Leadership Model


Organizational structures in schools have, for the most part, remained the same for decades. Schools have one overall leader overseeing, well, everything. This not only leads to a concentration of power and control, but it also often leads to an overload of responsibility and workload for that person in charge. The school’s success depends on the one person in charge. If they stand the school stands, if they fall, the school falls, too. Many theories and models have been suggested to distribute that load, some with more success than others. What most of them have in common, however, is that they leave one person in overall charge of the school, no matter how much team leadership is introduced. After all, “there must be a boss, someone who calls the shots when needed”, or does there?
This essay will explore a different option. A leadership model that truly creates team leadership, where solutions are found together, and decisions are made by consensus. For some, it will seem similar to what they are used to already, for others it will seem unrealistic if not impossible. I encourage all readers to engage in the following thoughts with an open mind.

Beyond the Principalship

The way it has always been

The labels of a school leader have changed over time and today different ones are being used depending on school size, host culture and context – principal, director, head of school, just to mention a few. Adding to this semantic confusion is that the same titles are used for different roles. In one school there is a principal and then heads of elementary, middle and high school, in another school the same roles might be called head of school, and then principal elementary, middle and high school. What stays the same, however, is that it is one person in charge of the school, and that is a very complex affair. It always has been and Rousmaniere (2009) puts it very well:

The school principal is the most complex and contradictory figure in the pantheon of educational leadership. The principal is both the administrative director of educational policy and a building manager, both an advocate for school change and the protector of bureaucratic stability. Authorised to be employer, supervisor, professional figurehead, and inspirational leader, the principal’s core training and identity is as a classroom teacher. Standing squarely between state institutions and the classroom, assigned both to promote large-scale initiatives and to solve immediate day-to-day problems, the principal carries multiple and often contradictory responsibilities, wears many hats, and moves swiftly between multiple roles in the course of one day. A single person, in a single professional role, acts on a daily basis as the connecting link between a large bureaucratic system and the individual daily experiences of large number of children and adults. (Editorial, para. 1)

Decades ago, in village or small-town settings, while nonetheless complex, this might have been manageable for one person. Today, schools become ever bigger organisations and new models of leadership must be developed. Unfortunately, it seems that many schools find themselves stuck in this historical model of leadership.

The principal

So, who are these principals, these one man or woman do-it-all school leaders? Usually, they are teachers. Excellent educators that are then promoted into leadership. Sometimes, especially in large schools, they are business managers with exceptional corporate skills, brought in to move the school forward. And often, unfortunately, they are people who thrive on power and control (Botha & Fuller, 2021). What most of them have in common is that they are good in one of the areas described by Rousmaniere (2009) but lack substantially in others due to the sheer size of scope of their job these days. They sit at the top of the still common traditional organizational chart, overseeing everything.

The traditional organizational chart of a school

Any quick google search for “school organizational chart” will render results similar to figures 1 & 2. There are variations to this, some with a board inserted to the side between the principal and the rest of the organization or some having deputy roles between levels. Many are organized so that the principal and the top-level head of departments form an executive leadership team. Nevertheless, the school leader is at the top of the chart which is organized in a classic top-down manner.

It is up to each school to further define their leadership model and incorporate more distributed and participatory models. However, it seems that no matter how flat the leadership of a school is structured, there still needs to be a big boss who is in charge of it all. In this paper, I would like to propose an alternative.

The Team3 Model

The Team3 Model has developed quite naturally over the past four years as part of pioneering our own school in Vanuatu. It is heavily influenced by Youth With A Mission’s foundational value No. 10 (Youth With A Mission, 2022) – Functioning in teams. While my own experience of successful YWAM leadership teams is limited, it was often the large size of those teams or the fact that there was still an overall leader, that made real success difficult. There is, however, a different example that has been successful for many decades – the Swiss Government. The executive, the elected seven state ministers or federal councillors, run the state affairs by consensus. There is no prime minister with the power to appoint and reshuffle their cabinet. While each minister oversees their respective department, executive decisions are made as a council by consensus (Hendriks & Karsten, 2014 and Ladner & Sager, 2022).

As our school grows, we are establishing an executive leadership team called Team3 where there is not one principal or head of school. Instead, the three leaders, each overseeing a particular area of the school, lead together and make decision by consensus. In here lies the difference to a traditional leadership team. The three leaders form the executive leadership team without one of them having more power or authority than the others. There is not one principal, director or head of school who is over department heads that together form the leadership team. Whenever their circles of responsibility overlap, they must work together and make decisions by consensus, not by voting or deferring to the one in charge. The circles are dynamic and can change in shape and size, and so do their areas of overlap depending on the situation at hand.

This model is derived from a flat leadership model that has then appropriate structure built on it (George, 2016). Several advantages of this model stand out. The success and failure of the school does not rest upon one person. Parallel to this, the power and control over the school does not rest with one person either. Leadership, responsibility and accountability are actually distributed. In today’s large schools, the three areas defined in the model – Vision & Care (Pastoral), Learning & Teaching (Academic) and Operations & Finances (Business) are each so specialised that they require experts to lead them. Expecting that one person can truly give leadership to all of them is unrealistic, so why have one person over them? And which one of the three would end up with the top job? Or does it end up being a fourth position whose sole job it is to coordinate the teamwork of the other three? Either way it is a sub ideal solution. In contrast, the Team3 model empowers all three of them to lead the school together. Another advantage with the Team3 model is continuity. Tenure in leadership positions is increasingly short-lived which can lead to big challenges and lack of continuity in a school with traditional school leadership. With the proposed Team3 model, when one of the leaders transitions out of the organization, two thirds of the leadership remain and can guarantee continuity as a new member is recruited and introduced.

While this model is still being established at our school, we already see the principle of it trickle down to the teachers and admin staff who also work as teams and find solutions together rather than expecting a boss telling them what to do. Currently, since our school is still small, the overlap of Learning & Teaching and Vision & Care is large, and the administrative workload is limited. However, as much as possible and where practical, processes and decision making are already delegated to members of the team. Even with the small size of our school, not having to do all three of the circles in the illustration makes a big difference for the involved leaders.


The main criticism and challenge with this leadership model is that it creates slow and irresolute decision making. However, in the context of a school, the extra time it takes for the three leaders to find consensus on a matter will hardly ever be detrimental to the success of the school. The advantages of leading a school as a team by consensus will virtually always outweigh this time argument.

Weak or even lack of leadership is another argument brought against this leadership model. The bigger the leadership team gets, the more likely this has validity, however, with three members only, this will hardly be an issue. It is also an argument rooted in the traditional understanding of leadership where there must be someone calling the shots. As understanding of leadership is changing quickly, less opposition from this can be expected and where it still exists it is worth challenging.


Education is crucial for any society and the education system is under immense pressure from many sides. School leadership is likely among the most challenging career fields in today’s world. Unlike in the corporate world, changes and developments of school leadership models are slow and met with resistance from all around.

Considering the very specialized and vastly complex areas of competencies in school leadership the traditional model of one person in charge of the entire school is often inadequate, leading to an inefficient and ineffective organization, to misuse of power by the school leader, or to burnout of the school leader. Attempts to distribute the responsibility and power to a team has been done countless times with varying success, but most of these attempts leave one person in charge of the team thus not really changing the model.

The Team3 school leadership model proposes a fundamental change in the way schools are run. With leading the school by consensus, the three executives share the burdens according to their fields of expertise, increasing the level of effective decision making. Accountability is also increased as no major decisions can be made alone. Furthermore, continuity in leadership is improved since one executive leaving the organization will not mean a complete shift in leadership. The remaining members of Team3 will continue to steer the school on the given track and incorporate a new team member as they are recruited.

School leadership in the 21st century is facing extreme challenges and new ways and new models must be found to move forward. I believe the Team3 school leadership model makes a valuable contribution towards these efforts.


Botha, J., & Fuller, M. (2021). South African teachers’ views of the power and control exercised by their principals. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 1–22.

Creately. (n.d.). School Organizational Chart. Pinterest.

George, Drake, “Trust & Growth in the Workplace: an Analysis of Leadership in Flat Organizations” (2016). University Honors Theses. Paper 353.

Hendriks, F., & Karsten, N. (2014). Theory of democratic leadership. P.’t Hart & R. Rhodes (Eds.), Oxford handbook of political leadership, 41-56.

High School Structure Org Chart Template. (n.d.). Edraw.

Ladner, A., & Sager, F. (2022). 29. Switzerland: the politics of PA in a multi-party semi-direct consensus democracy. Handbook on the politics of public administration, 321.

Rousmaniere, K. (2009). Historical perspectives on the principalship. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 41(3), 215–221.

Youth With A Mission. (2022, November 8). The Statement of Purpose, Core Beliefs and Foundational Values of YWAM – Youth With A Mission. Youth With a Mission.

Schools and Homesteads


We are living in an incredibly special time. Advances in technology and environmental protection are made at an unbelievable pace. I might not agree with every technological advance, but they are nonetheless fascinating. In the same way, I might not agree with all positions and arguments for environmental protection and climate change, but it is fascinating to see how the world is becoming more and more aware of it and that is, overall, a good thing. Now, here’s the challenge I see. The technological advances we are making to achieve food and water security also encourage the idea that we do not need functioning ecosystems for us to achieve said food and water security. To put it in an extreme way, we’re achieving food and water security, the survival of mankind, seemingly without needing planet earth.

A New Challenge Needs a New Approach

During my years living and working in developing nations, I’ve gained some insights into issues such as food security and access to safe water. Areas of great concern and obviously directly linked to technology and the climate change debate. And maybe like never before, humanity finds itself in a position to be able and motivated enough to find solutions to these areas. However, I see us creating a new challenge as we use never-before seen technologies to find solutions to our world’s crises, be it food, water, housing or environment.

Today, we are looking at urban vertical farms (Despommier, 2019), where vegetables are grown indoors, without soil, without natural light, but yielding great results. Real meat is grown in labs (Waltz, 2021), like, real chicken breast meat, that’s never been part of a chicken. Again, I’m not sure I agree with all these advances, I might go vegetarian before I eat lab meat, but the fact that we have found technologies to make such things possible is fascinating and opens huge possibilities. Same with water purification and desalination methods, where it does not matter how polluted the water is to begin with, the process results in safe drinking water. It is quite amazing.

Most of these technological advances are made in urban mega centres. Singapore, Dubai, Tokyo, L.A., London etc. There are many very practical reasons for why that is. Let’s summarize it by saying it is the coming together of human and financial resources. So, we have children in schools in these big cities, growing up mostly disconnected from ecosystems that yield food and clean water, or disconnected from the challenges of providing housing. Sure, they learn that milk comes from cows, seeds grow into plants that then yield fruit, but they don’t have the opportunity to see it happen for themselves, even less to take part in making it happen. They also never have to experience the existential need for appropriate housing as housing will for many be a thing that’s taken for granted. At the same time, they learn about all these breakthrough technologies and how their generation will have to tackle all these major challenges in the world. Now, you put the two things together, the technological advances that, inadvertently, encourage not needing functioning ecosystems to sustain life, and the disconnection between everyday life and the ecosystems that sustain it, that children and teenagers in the world’s leading urban centres grow up with. What I fear could happen is a shift in mindset from “we need to protect our planet” towards “we don’t need our planet” within the next generation or two. A bit of apocalyptic sci-fi thinking you might say. Maybe. But no matter how advanced the technologies will get, people cannot live meaningful lives without functioning ecosystems, nature, planet earth.

Children grow up without ever experiencing such things like planting a seed and watching it germinate, then take care of it and harvest its fruit and turning that fruit into, let’s say, jam. Or looking after some animals, milking a goat, turning that milk into cheese, feeding some chickens and collecting their eggs. But when they grow up, they are expected to solve the worlds emergencies in food, water and environment and the resulting crises and conflicts. The disconnect is real and the challenge huge. Education needs to re-establish this connection. Maybe not primarily because of the skills learnt during these activities, those will be relevant for some, but because of the heart connection it creates to what sustains their everyday life – food, water, an environment to live in; the exact things they are expected to find solutions for once they grow up. So, what can we do?

We must create opportunities for our children to connect with earth, nature, and the ecosystems that produce their food and water, and air to breathe and place to live, opportunities to take part in the processes to produce sustainable food, clean water and air, and adequate housing, so that they have a firm foundation, a real connection to the challenges at hand gained from first hand experiences, from which they will take humanity to never before seen levels of development and stewardship. How are we going to do that? Most children learn best, if the learning is experiential and hands-on. Schools that dare to incorporate such learning see dramatic and positive changes in their students (Kaldi et al., 2011).

Every school, to some level or another, should incorporate agriculture, farming and production of value-added products. I think schools should do whatever it takes, to integrate a farm or homestead into their school program (Jolly et al., 2004), a place where children can see that food doesn’t just appear at the supermarket, where they can gain hands-on experience with growing food, both plants and animals and learn about what ecosystems are needed. Where they can experience turning primary produce into value-added products and how to use them. A place where they learn to use appropriate technologies in responsible ways. An educational program with a holistic approach that combines subjects such as agriculture, technology, home economics, crafts, business and even arts (Jaatinen & Lindfors, 2019).


We need our planet, of course, and our ecosystems are under an enormous pressure, but at the same time our advances in technology bring new solutions within reach. The biggest challenge is preparing our most precious resource, our children, for the task at hand. We need to create an education that ensures creating a heart connection between the world’s needs and their technological knowledge and skills. It will be firmly rooted in their worldview. A homestead program will help children for their everyday life, but it will also help them succeed in careers like food and water technology, policy making, industrial production, community development, international diplomacy and many others. And what I mean by succeed is not getting the jobs, promotions, and high salaries, but the fact that they will achieve the breakthroughs our world needs. And I think the time to act on this is now.


Despommier, D. (2019, September 24). Vertical farms, building a viable indoor farming model for cities.

Jaatinen, J. & Lindfors, E. (2019). Makerspaces for Pedagogical Innovation Processes: How Finnish Comprehensive Schools Create Space for Makers. Design and Technology Education, 24(2).

Jolly, L., Krogh, E., Nergaard, T., Parow, K. and Verstad, B. (2004). The Farm as a Pedagogical Resource: Background for and evaluation of the co-operation between agriculture and primary school in the county of Nord-Trondelag, Norway. FARMING AND RURAL SYSTEMS RESAERCH AND EXTENSION, European Farming and Society in Search of a New Social Contract – Learning to Manage Change, 633-644

Kaldi, S., Filippatou, D., & Govaris, C. (2011). Project-based learning in primary schools: effects on pupils’ learning and attitudes. Education 3-13, 39(1), 35–47.

Waltz, E. (2021, March 1). Club-goers take first bites of lab-made chicken. Document – Gale OneFile: Health and Medicine.