Purpose: the purpose of this paper is to explore the instructional leadership practices and structure in singapore primary schools. Design/methodology/approach: the study employs a qualitative approach. Data were collected from interviews of 30 singapore primary school principals and 25 working-day observations of five principals. A grounded theory method was utilized to analyze the qualitative data. Findings: the instructional leadership roles of principals can be categorized into four key themes: vision development and implementation, physical and organizational structure, professional development, and leading and managing instruction. Importantly, the study illuminates a hybrid structure of instructional leadership in which both hierarchical and heterarchical elements exist. Originality/value: the current study expands the global knowledge base on instructional leadership by providing indigenous knowledge of how instructional leadership is enacted in singapore schools. Simultaneously, this study suggests an agenda for future research on instructional leadership. 2017, Emerald publishing limited.