What does good school leadership look like?

What makes a good leader? Is it the ability to delegate? A good listener? Someone who isn’t afraid of confrontation when it’s needed? There are many qualities which can be deemed as integral to being a successful leader, but what does good leadership look like in a school setting?

The personal qualities we have can account for more of our success than our practical skills – in fact, up to 85% of our financial success is based on ‘invisible skills’ – traits like personality, how well we can communicate, our ability to empathise, negotiate and lead. These skills are important in any leader, but the setting in which someone leads can influence which skills, in particular, are of greater importance. We took to Twitter to ask what good leadership looks like in the setting of a school.

@sbm_jo said: “Professionalism. Leading by example, being a visible presence for their team and encouraging ideas and growth. Having a clear vision, setting achievable expectations and communicating these clearly.”

The idea of being a big part of the team, and encouraging ideas, was also echoed by @MaggieDuncan123 who added that “Inclusion and teamwork” were two qualities which should be present in good school leadership.

Teamwork, and encouraging those you lead to give their ideas and feel included, form part of the important balance between leadership and emotional intelligence. According to Psychology Todayemotional intelligence is ‘The ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others’. In the workplace this is often referred to as ‘being good with people’ or ‘having good people skills’.

In a study of more than 5,000 leaders across multiple industries, leaders who were more self-aware and more thoughtful about how they engaged with co-workers were judged the best. Additional research from Harvard also found that introverts, not extroverts, were more likely to surpass expectations of company leadership.

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Neither liked nor feared

As both studies revealed, the best leaders don’t focus all of their efforts on being universally liked or feared. Instead, they develop a deeper understanding of their employees’ points of view. They comprehend the needs and motivations of others and, in turn, calmly engage with them under pressure in order to move decisions forward.

Furthermore, in 2015, Google took a closer look at what makes a team successful. They found that the most effective teams within their company could all answer ‘Yes’ to the same five questions:

  • Can we take risks in this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
  • Can we count on each other to do high quality work, on time?
  • Are goals, roles and execution plans in our team clear?
  • Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
  • Do we, fundamentally, believe that the work we’re doing matters?

While successful team members all shared similar answers, they also had something else in common: emotional intelligence.

When we compare Google’s questions to the three core emotional intelligence skills, we find that both sets require empathy, the ability to gauge and understand emotions of others in order to work together, and the ability to understand individual motivations.

Through the research done in this area, and the tweets from SBMs on Twitter, it can be suggested that being emotionally intelligent, inclusive, a team player and approachable are all attributes that make a good leader in a school environment.

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