Five Keys to School Leadership

If you search “leadership” on the web you will find over a million pieces of information or pictures. It is a topic that stretches from one career to another. In recent years, this has included numerous books, tweets and other social media information. Like many things in our society, sometimes we make a topic very complex when in reality it comes down to a few variables. When we think of effective leadership in schools, from my perspective there are five keys to leadership that individuals can focus on that moves their school community forward towards excellence. Here are the five keys:

  1. Foster Effective Relationships – The most effective schools have common features – they have quality relationships between students, staff and parents. Establishing strong relationships takes time and a consistent focus on “what’s best for kids” that includes:
    • It occurs one interaction at a time.
    • Knowing the names of students and taking an interest in them as people. This is true for staff and parents as well.
    • Supporting staff through challenges and be empathetic towards their needs.
    • Taking every opportunity to be visible within the building and taking time to share successes and challenges with the parents about their child.
    • In Leadership, character is more important than strategy….lead with integrity and honesty.
  2. Effective Instructional Leadership – Schools are designed to develop the skills and competencies within the students over time so they can be prepared for anything in their future. This takes quality instruction, sound pedagogy, effective assessment and consistent curricular practices. No one person can be the expert on these array of topics, but leaders who are instructional leaders share the following traits:
    • They are constantly learning new skills and strategies that enhance practices in their school.
    • They share best practices with their staff and take an interest in helping others grow as learners.
    • They share with staff, students and parents the purpose of instruction so the overall purpose and experiences within the school are the same.
    • They are firm with their principles but flexible with their practices. They adjust to meet staff needs that in turn impact student needs.
  3. Visionary Leadership – As society is changing so are schools and the purpose of our education system. A leader must be aware of the needs of the students and the supports staff need to work with students. This takes constant feedback opportunities and being aware of societal needs that need to be implemented within the school in a timely basis. Also, the impact of budget and understanding how to maximize the school facility for learning are essential too.
  4. Developing Capacity in others – The best schools are made of rock star teachers. Developing others is an important part of a leader’s role. From my perspective, a leader is defined “not by their power but of their ability to empower and influence others to grow”. Some key components to this include:
    • Always work on developing relationships and building trust
    • Find out what motivates each staff member and use that to help them find the purpose to grow.
    • Remove the barriers within the teacher classroom so they can work with students and create success.
    • Get into teacher classrooms and provide feedback that supports their growth.
    • Provide opportunities for teachers to give feedback to you on their needs and have them help lead PD.
    • Magnify the strengths of the teachers, not their deficits
  5. Create Sustainable Change – If we think about sustained success of schools, it takes leadership that is about “making others better as a result of the leader’s presence and making sure that the impact last in their absence”. This is true as far as the building culture, carrying forward with traditions that recognize growth/success of students and staff while maintaining a positive climate that leads to rigorous/relevant learning. The only way this can occur is if we create teacher leaders and a culture that is focused on kids and their needs.

If you are reading this then you are already striving for excellence and have a focus on growth as a leader. I would be curious on how you strive for excellence as a leader and provide the very best for kids. Reach out to me with comments at









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A Husband, Father and Principal with a focus on learning, leading and connecting with others.

An educator for 25 years with 14 of those being a building administrator. I have found that the more I learn form others and their experiences it helps me grow and learn as well. I hope you join our journey as we create learning environments for students and staff that create future success.

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