“We need an iron hand, but the iron hand must be a clean hand”

Contextualizing the practice of school leadership in Vietnam 1

Authored by: Philip Hallinger , Truong Dinh Thang , Gian Tu Trung

Routledge International Handbook of Schools and Schooling in Asia

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138908499
eBook ISBN: 9781315694382
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter presents an overview of initial findings from our efforts to begin building a formal knowledge base on school leadership in Vietnam. The study addressed two broad questions. First, how does the context of education in Vietnam shape the role of school leaders, in particular principals? Second, what leadership orientation is evidenced in the practice of Vietnamese principals? The Vietnamese aphorism – “We need an iron hand, but the iron hand must be a clean hand” – highlights the metaphorical interplay of ‘autocratic leadership’ and ‘moral leadership’ that characterizes our preliminary model of Vietnamese school leadership.

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