Head teachers would rather be like Mahatma Gandhi, the advocate of "passive resistance", than Britain's wartime leader Winston Churchill.
Mahatma Gandhi provides the role model for head teachers
A survey of head teachers, carried out by their professional training college, says heads most admire the leadership style of the Indian leader.
Heads approved of Gandhi's "courageous servant-leader" approach, says the National College for School Leadership.
Heads also rejected the "Braveheart" tough-guy approach to leadership.
The survey of newly-appointed head teachers examined which management styles were most effective.
And the most popular style was typified by Mahatma Gandhi, who led a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience in India against British colonial rule. He was assassinated in 1948.
In contrast, only about one in 10 heads approved of the "coercive leadership" model of Winston Churchill.
Head teachers supported a shared style of leadership which was democratic and involved other members of staff. In contrast, the Churchillian model was about "focusing attention on one central figure".
"Coaching and democratic styles enable headteachers to work with others to bring about improvements to schools that are sustainable over the long term," says Alison Kelly of the Nottingham-based NCSL, which is the national centre for professional training for senior school staff.
"Sharing leadership in this way can develop leadership potential throughout the school, and beyond into the education system as a whole," she said.
In a millennium poll in 2000, Mahatma Gandhi was voted the greatest man of the past thousand years by readers of the BBC News website.