8 Strategies for School Leaders

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Image courtesy of Worakit Sirijinda - http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

Image courtesy of Worakit Sirijinda – http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

School leadership has never been easy. Given how quickly technology is changing and how extensively the global economic landscape is shifting, school leadership has gotten that much harder.

What distinguishes one school leader from another is his/her ability to move from barely hanging in, to keeping up, to paving the way. While the gap between barely hanging in to paving the way has always been great, it’s clearly increasing. I’d argue the same for the growing gap between keeping up and paving the way. In fact, I’d say that now, more than ever, it’s getting more and more difficult to go from good to great.

To do that, I believe school leaders need to do the following:

  1. Keep learning: This is no longer an option. It’s a requirement for the job.
  2. Learn in person and online: In-person learning may be most comfortable, but it’s time to get uncomfortable. There are lots of how-to resources out there. Get online, build a presence, and get learning.
  3. Measure your performance: Maintain metrics on your performance that include goals and data on the professional and the personal. Be the keeper of your own data. Hold yourself accountable to key metrics that you can speak to and use to mark progress.
  4. Build a robust network: You’re going to need it. Working in schools used to mean job security. That’s no longer the case. Be sure to maintain and continue to build your personal and professional network. It’s another way to keep learning. It’s another metric by which to measure your performance.
  5. Create and contribute: Don’t just consume. Share your knowledge and expertise. Ask questions. Challenge and argue. Oh. And do it online. Strengthen your online voice. Others will Google you. Make sure you’re out there as you want to be seen and heard.
  6. Build capacity in others: You can’t and shouldn’t do this work alone and you shouldn’t want to.
  7. Communicate effectively: Do this in writing, online, in person, and all the many ways leaders need to communicate. Say things early and often and with great clarity.
  8. Set clear expectations and craft a powerful vision: Inspire. Tell powerful stories. Draw on meaningful data.

Let’s start with these eight. How are you doing with each one? Which ones am I missing?

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  1. mrdardy on September 24, 2013 at 10:19 am

    A recent conversation springs to mind. I was talking with our Upper School Head about some curriculum questions that have been bubbling under the surface in our school. He said that this was a conversation for the Dept Chairs to have. He said that it was our call to make because, in his words, our school hired a division head who is good at making the trains run on time. He wants to step aside and let us make these curricular decisions because that is where our expertise (hopefully) lies. I have been chewing on this and I am simultaneously happy and slightly frustrated by this. I appreciate his recognition of our expertise and his interest in letting us make some important decisions. I am slightly frustrated by what feels like his reluctance to wrestle with these questions by our side. Where does a leader step aside and let others have authority? Where does the leader take on the job of learning outside their own comfort zone so that they can be active participants in these decisions? I know this is a bit of a vague questions without deep background on the questions at hand, but this post really has me thinking back to this conversation.

  2. Gayle on September 24, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Jim, I love the questions you’re asking here. I see them as very much related to items raised in this post, namely, that leaders need to keep learning. It’s a thoughtful leader that recognizes and isn’t threatened by the expertise of those s/he leads. All the more reason, though, to engage in and learn from the conversations those experts will be having. That willingness to be vulnerable and demonstrate that you’re learning with the group involved can make a big difference. Would be great to have that conversation with him/her. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here!