This paper aims to identify the characteristics of principal leadership in Hong Kong. More specifically, it analyzes and integrates a number of studies to identify the consistency of principal leadership across the years and samples using a number of different leadership conceptions. These conceptions include both traditional and alternate approaches to educational leadership. The paper shows how societal culture and context combine with the principals’ personal attributes to shape their school leadership. Findings indicate considerable diversity among Hong Kong principals even through they operate within the same social system. The paper stresses the importance of understanding culture and context if worthwhile leadership development programmes are to be developed. Copyright © 2000 Routledge.