Traits of effective school leaders

Leadership is far more complex than we often think, and with a job as varied as SBL, focusing on the ‘leadership’ part can be challenging. So, what traits do make an effective school leader?

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Online Degrees

As school business leaders are at the helm of so many different areas and tasks, they can have a significant impact on the school’s culture and attitude; furthermore, the success of these tasks can have an impact on the school’s reputation. Therefore, poor leadership can have an equally significant impact – but in a negative way. When schools lack strong leaders, they also lack a strong foundation and direction to head in. So, what makes a good school leader, and what are the traits they should have?

Understanding the importance of community 

The most successful school leaders are those who understand the importance of building a community. This means knowing how to communicate effectively with the whole school community including students, staff and parents. The best way to ensure you are communicating well is to make sure that you are visible within your school community; this creates a sense of transparency, allowing you to become trusted within your community and making it easier to communicate as efficiently and clearly as possible. 

Empowering others around them

Great school business leaders know that they are not an island. Empowering the team you work with, and those you come into contact with on a regular basis, is important as you cannot do it all alone. As saying goes, a team is only as strong as its weakest player. Making a conscious effort to help others around you grow and learn will help to improve the success of all the tasks you do collaboratively. 

Utilising data and resources

The most effective school business leaders are able to leverage relevant data to make strategic decisions to benefit their school. According to educational technology company Illuminate Education, ‘Building a foundation for data-driven decision-making’ is the first of Six Steps for School Leaders to Use Data Effectively’.

A report from the Wallace Foundation says, “When it comes to data, effective leaders try to draw the most from statistics and evidence, having ‘learned to ask useful questions’ of the information, to display it in ways that tell ‘compelling stories’ and to use it to promote ‘collaborative inquiry among teachers.’ They view data as a means not only of pinpointing problems but also to understand their nature and causes.”

Having a vision

The very best leaders are also visionaries – they strive to unite the team around them and plan how best to lead them to success. They are also able to clearly articulate their school vision and goals. Vision is, perhaps, one of the most important qualities a leader can have as it provides momentum and direction, not just for the team leader but for each and every team member. 

Being passionate about the job

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Passion is incredibly important for nearly anyone who wants to be successful and happy in their job. It is especially important for school business leaders who, typically, have a great influence on their school’s climate and culture. If a school leader is lacklustre, and takes a ‘can’t be bothered’ attitude, it is likely to result in other people within the school starting to also act in this manner. It is important that, when you’re in a senior role, you lead by example as it is easy to influence the behaviour of those who take instruction from you.  

“All the knowledge in the world can’t make a good leader; it’s the care for the work and the people who collaborate with you that makes the difference,” wrote Forbes. “This is, in large part, because people want to follow a passionate leader – someone who cares about, not only the cause for which he or she is working, but also the other people who are involved in the effort. Passion for the projects, for the school and for the people involved are key to successful leadership.”

Persevering when times get tough 

While change can be good, it can also be disruptive when it occurs too frequently. In the case of school leadership, it has been documented that frequent turnover results in a negative school climate which, in turn, has a negative effect on student performance.

The best leaders, therefore, are willing to commit to a school and persevere despite the obstacles or challenges. After all, realising a vision doesn’t happen overnight; true transformation takes time. A leader’s commitment displays not only passion but also dedication, which can have a tremendously positive effect on school culture.

A school leader who possesses all of these traits is a successful one. If you see these traits in yourself, know that you are doing a good job. However, this doesn’t mean you should stop striving to improve your leadership skills. The best leaders are the ones who are willing to learn, improve and grow. 

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