Superintendents define their job responsibilities variously, with definitions that range from being an employee of the school board responsible for implementing the school board's policies to being professional paid staff responsible for providing vision and leadership for lay leaders (the school board). While the role of urban superintendents may be changing the most, superintendents of smaller or rural districts are also being forced to confront the necessity of adopting new methods of operating in light of local and national scrutiny of schools and the public's desire for higher academic standards.

The key leadership skills possessed by the ideal superintendent of the next century will include human, technical, and conceptual abilities (Hoyle, 1989, pp. 376-379). Superintendents must play three roles in order to exercise real leadership: politician, manager, and teacher (Cuban, 1985, pp. 28-38). The role of the superintendent is also to ensure that all members of the community believe that they have a stake in the public schools (Houston, 1997, pp. 756-759). And, to further complicate the superintendent's job, as stated in an article originally appearing in The School Administrator, he or she has a key role to play in school reform: "local superintendents must play a central role by working as an intermediary between the state and the schools, parents and public" (Cross, 1997, p. 2).



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