Who sets the tone in an education environment? Who or what determines the climate of a school? A recent post on Twitter from #teachergoals caught our attention: “If admin isn’t excited, teachers aren’t excited. If teachers aren’t excited, kids aren’t excited. #leadershipmatters” A 2013 Gallup report entitled School Leadership Linked to Engagement and Student Achievement reported, “Leadership is second only to classroom instruction among school-related factors that contribute to what students learn at school.” Education leadership plays a critical role in a school’s environment.
What qualities do leaders in education need to set a positive tone and create the best experience for students and teachers? We did some searching and found six key traits to focus on for positive, effective leaders:
- 1. Communicate
- 2. Be Positive
- 3. Encourage Feedback and Collaboration
- 4. Trust, Empower, and Believe in Others
- 5. Solve Problems and Make Decisions
- 6. Create and Innovate
Leaders need to be excellent communicators. They need to effectively communicate one-on-one, with individual departments, and with their entire staff. They understand the value of listening to and really hearing those they serve. These leaders have an open-door policy and welcome the input of others. Leaders also need to communicate their vision so everyone understands its value and can be motivated to work toward the same goals.
A leader’s attitude affects everyone in their organization. If teachers and staff feel like their administrator loves coming to work, they will likely to feel the same. Positive leaders take time to build authentic relationships and show others they care. They set a positive tone by being kind and patient, building up those they work with and helping them see the growth they can achieve. Even when things aren’t going as planned, a positive leader doesn’t vent by talking negatively about others.
Encourage feedback and Collaboration
Feedback is a two-way street, and effective leaders understand that. They take time to identify the strengths of those they work with and areas where they can grow. They also welcome feedback and appreciate hearing which things they’re doing well and where change might be needed. Great leaders work with their team, defining goals and plans to strengthen the students and teachers they work with. They understand the value in coaching and mentorship, both for themselves and for the teachers in their school.
Trust, Empower, and Believe in Others
People perform better when a leader trusts them to do their job and believes they can succeed. Education leaders understand this and demonstrate trust at their schools. They give constructive feedback without micro-managing. A great leader understands the individual strengths and weaknesses of those they work with. Together they can build on strengths and provide personal development to strengthen weaknesses.
Solve Problems and Make Decisions
School administrators are faced every day with decisions and problems that they can’t anticipate or plan for. They have to be ready to think outside the box and act quickly to solve unique problems. Leaders can face tough decisions—they have to be strong enough to make hard decisions and move forward with confidence.
Create and Innovate
Strong leaders know that decisions don’t always have a clear answer and often the solutions they seek are non-traditional. Knowing when to stick with “the way it’s always been done” and changing things to fit new circumstances is critical. Educational leaders are often looking for new and better ways to do things. They embrace different cultural perspectives and are open to the ideas of others. Not only are they creative and innovative, but they empower students and teachers to do the same.
Strong and effective education leaders are critical to the success of today’s schools. Their ability to uplift and inspire those they work with, along with their ability to be creative and effective in their decision making and collaboration, will affect the atmosphere of their school and the attitude of all they work with.
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