There is an emergent field of effective leadership of schools that is the product of recent policy strategies regarding the relationship between the state, public policy and knowledge. It is argued in this paper that this is producing a centralised branded form of effective leadership for the commissioning and delivery of provision that is essential to the further extension of the market into public education. Consequently, the future of leadership research is related directly to a technical form of knowledge production that produces evidence to support ongoing reform. While the situation looks gloomy the authors examine strategies for those who believe in educational leadership research to use to both challenge and to generate alternatives. They argue for doing intellectual work and being a public intellectual so that what 'counts' as leadership and good practice research is challenged and questioned in ways that both counter and provide alternatives to deeply entrenched conservative interests regarding public services.