NEW GROUP! Includes discussions from the Administrators and Professional Development groups. What will it take to move our schools into the 21st century? Please share your thoughts and leadership strategies here.

Leadership in the 21st Century

Eric Sheninger Principal at New Milford High School

I have recently begun to ponder necessary skills sets that administrators should possess in order increase student achievement through innovation. What skills do you feel leaders in the 21st Century should possess in order to meet this objective? Are administrators adequately prepared to meet this challenge? If not how do we ensure that these skills are developed?

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I am an author, professional development provider and retired ESL teacher

Administrators need to be

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Administrators need to be true leaders, not just someone who went to school and got the necessary certifications. Society blames teachers when scores are low or their methods are antiquated. Some of this blame needs to fall on administrators. It is their job to work with teachers to help them improve. Some teachers should not have been tenured in the first place. It was an administrator who allowed that to happen.
A good leaders works with teachers in his/her school to raise standards.. If something is not working in a school , this is the administrator’s responsibility. If test scores are low in a school or district, some of the blame for that should fall on the administration. Principals need to spend more time working with struggling teachers. Teacher leaders need more time to mentor their colleagues. Their schedules should not be so overloaded that they do not have time to make changes in the way they teach. Yes, it takes time to change and to learn new skills. Elementary teachers in particular need less student contact time.
A good leader shares decisions with his/her staff .Administrators sometimes decide on new school initiatives without teacher input. Teachers need to be part of change. They need to feel they have some control over what happens in their school. Too many decisions are made from the top down. I know one district that made a major change in the math and in the language arts curriculums over the same three years that affected nearly every teacher in the district.
A good leader makes people who work for him/her feel good about the job they are doing. They need to support their teachers. I was never a classroom teacher but feel very strongly that elementary classroom teachers are overloaded. The clerical work and record keeping that they are expected to complete has increased dramatically over the years. They have more responsibility in referral of students. They have more meetings. Some have large classes with many problem students. Others have difficult parents to contend with. Many do not have the materials that they need. Then on top of all that, they are expected to make changes in the way they teach, to implement sweeping new curriculum. Each lesson needs to be differentiated. The range of students ability in a single classroom is overwhelming.

Assistant Superintendent for Learning, Burlington Public Schools (MA)

I think that the skills that

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I think that the skills that administrators need are the same ones that our students need. They are the seven survival skills that Tony Wagner describes in The Global Achievement Gap 1. Critical Thinking/Problem Solving 2. Collaboration Across Networks and leading by influence 3. Agility and Adaptability 4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism 5. Effective oral and written communication 6. Accessing and Analyzing information 7. Curiousity and Imagination

If we don't have leaders with these skills I do not think that we can have schools where they are being fostered. I think that the ability to the collaborate is a key because leaders should not feel like they need to have all the answers. Instead, they need to ask the big questions and lead those in their schools and communities to create their own answers (meaning).

I do not think that most are adequately trained for this mainly because the education that most of received did not promote or foster these skills. How we change all this is the toughest question because we have leaders created by an outdated system trying to overcome (unlearn) their pasts to create a new direction.

Assistant Professor at Freed-Hardeman University, Henderson, TN

My concern as I consider this

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My concern as I consider this topic is that am I doing everything that I can to ensure that the Master level and Ed. S. level students that are taking part in this administrative journey are truly being prepared for all facets of the 21st century; including having the best working knowledge of the technological skills that are required!


I do agree that the system

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I do agree that the system that is currently educating our school leaders are antiquated. We must engaged ourselves in self directed learning to stay abreast of current best practices and student-centered trends to connect with our students for relevant, meaningful experiences.

Principal, Gahanna Lincoln High School/Gahanna Jefferson Public Schools

Skill Set

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The role of the administrator in the 21st Century is twofold: leader and manager.

By leader, I mean that the admininstrator has to have a clear vision of where the school or district needs to go, communicate with stakeholders to see the vision through their own eyes, and then provide the necessary resources to help the school get there. This takes a great deal of time, service of others, and study.

By manager, I am referring to the necessary minutiae of the day to day operation of the school. If you don't take care of the little things, they easily become big things, which takes away valuable time to lead. Trust me, I have not mastered either way!

Our district just recently completed a Graduate Profile which includes 5 21st Century Skills that we believe all of our graduates (k-12) need to develop. Administrators and teachers have to model these skills, as stated in one of the previous comments, in order to let our students know what we expect.

At the same time, however, the role of the administrator also has to continue to be a developer of people. As Jim Collins refers to in his book, Good to Great, we have to get the right people on the right bus in the right seat.

Finally, the administrator has to take care of oneself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, spiritually being first. Just remember the Serenity Prayer!

Be Great,


Teacher in Michigan


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One who can envision a success story and share that vision with everyone.

One who can make people feel valued.

A true leader brings out the best.

Executive Director of Center for Teaching

Leadership Skills for the 21st Century

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I recently attended the NSDC conference in St. Louis and heard Michael Fullan's keynote on his new book, Motion Leadership: The Skinny on Becoming Change Savvy. While he does not promote "specific skills" as we typically think of them, he does promote a model for leadership that is interesting and compelling. He discusses his eight elements of motion leadership:

1. change problems
2. change itself
3. connecting peers with purpose
4. capacity building trumps judgmentalism
5. learning is the work
6. transparency rules
7. love, trust, and resistance
8. leadership for all

In the book, he discusses each of his eight principles and weaves in relevant stories of leaders doing the work. The whole context of the book is how to get motion out of effective leadership--what are the elements of effective leadership.

So while the typical qualities, good listener, good problem-solver, good communicator, etc., are important, I think Fullan weaves a more complete story about what 21st century leadership requires.

I really enjoyed his book. It is succinct and easy to grasp the message.

Bob Ryshke

I am not a Principal but I

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I am not a Principal but I have worked under many.I believe that a person who is confident and emotionally secure about his person, cares deeply about the students and teachers both ,is able to take people on board when he starts something new, is aware of the times he lives in and the problems of the youth,is both innovative and creative and can inspire and be firm at the same time is a person i'd like to work with.

Library/media specialist in Camas Washington

What a principal should be

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I finished my masters in Ed. leadership a year ago and am just now looking for a posting...but i do have a thought on this one.
I have made it my personal quest over the last three years to define and articulate the qualities that make a person an amazing principal. In its largest sense the answer is fairly clear; an amazing principal makes the staff eager to teach and develop professionally, the students eager to learn and grow, and the community eager to support and participate in their school. The defining of the characteristics that lead to this conclusion must be more detailed, data driven and clearly articulated. The gold standard for this research has been done by Interstate School Leadership Licensure Consortium; their work is definitive and data driven however, The cottage industry surrounding educational leadership continues to grow aggressively with strong research and well presented theories and beliefs.
What I have found missing in this growth is a universal terminology. There are clear trends that come up repeatedly in both the research and the most promising theories. I have synthesized these ideas into six clear and concise qualities that should be an active part of the leadership of successful school; learning, caring, connecting, communicating, empowering, and growing.
• Learning: This is the foundation of what we do. It must therefore be seen, shared, demonstrated and celebrated. A commitment to learning must start at the top. School leaders need to be and show a passion for their own learning as much as they do their students.
o During our schools morning announcement I share new trivial facts I have found. As a result I now have students helping research those facts and sharing their work.
• Caring: The research is clear on this as well, Caring is a powerful tool, it motivates, instill loyalty, empowers everyone and even pardons minor sins. This quality is the cornerstone of Positive Behavior Intervention and support systems.
o In February of 2006 a second grade teacher and I started a chess club at lunch. Neither of us play but the students wanted the opportunity and we wanted to listen to them
• Connecting: The more connections you make the strong the school you create. A staff that feels connected performs better, students that have a connection to their school score higher, communities that connect to schools are more supportive.
o In March of 2010 we had a student being teased on the playground because of his long hair. The parents were willing to help did not have the resources. After a quick phone call I had a mother that works as a hairdresser come up and resolve the issue. Everyone walked away feeling they had a connection to the school.
• Communicating: Without this quality the rest are meaningless, as school leaders it is imperative that we listen actively, speak clearly and write carefully so that all stake holders understand the goals as well as the process.
o In the spring of 2009 we replaced many of the student computer systems with an open source system. That was embraced and expanded once I was able to explain the substantial cost savings to our staff.
• Empowering: The role of the teacher is to empower their students to use their skills and build their knowledge. The role of school principals should be no less.
o In the fall of 2008 I lead a group of teachers within our building in peer coaching as we looked for meaningful way to use technology in the classrooms.
• Growing: The management of change has become its own industry As an institution that fosters this it is imperative that we understand and manage it well.
o In the fall of 2009 our staff moved into a new building. We managed this change by preparing for it, and participating in the design, planning, and scheduling of the change.

Good to have your ideas

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Good to have your ideas collaborated!I especially agree with `an amazing principal makes the staff eager to teach and develop professionally, the students eager to learn and grow, and the community eager to support and participate in their school.'I am going to forward it to my principal, I hope he feels inspired.

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