It remains the case that certain young people from particular backgrounds consistently fail to meet their full potential. The strong link between social disadvantage and educational underperformance is difficult to break, despite the attempts of policy-makers and practitioners to intervene. Leaders in educational contexts know only too well the difficulties that many young people face in securing levels of achievement that other young people take for granted. This lecture will argue that issues of equity and diversity are most starkly visible in schools and colleges that work with young people from some of our most deprived communities. It will consider the forms of leadership practice that can make a difference and draw upon recent research that has explored how the engagement of parents and the wider community can negate some of the detrimental effects of growing up in a poor area. The argument is that local activism and action is most likely to combat social inequality and that educational leadership in such settings is fundamentally concerned with building a strong sense of community.