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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Leadership and Change

Leadership and Change

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What educational leadership qualities and/or steps do you find essential in order to initiate and sustain change in schools? It would be great to hear the perspectives of both teachers and practicing administrators.

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Jason Flom's picture
Jason Flom
Director-Elect in Tallahassee, FL

A few qualities I think are necessary for drawing us teachers in as collaborators (co-conspirators?) toward sustaining change:

1. Imagination
2. Vision
3. Enthusiasm
4. Flexibility
5. Thick skin ("You can't chop down a forest without splinters flying." Russian Proverb)
6. Sense of humor
7. Patience

Eric Sheninger's picture
Eric Sheninger
Principal at New Milford High School


This is great information that all administrators can utilize to bring about meaningful change. It is refreshing to get a perspective from someone who is "in the trenches". I would also add the following:

8. Provide proper training (if necessary)
9. Consensus/collaborative decision-making
10.Positive reinforcement

Bill Birdlebough's picture
Bill Birdlebough
Hall Principal at William Fleming High School

Here are a few that the teachers I work with have said they like:
1. Transparency: I have given them permission to "question" (ask questions) any decision that is made. Whether it is one of mine, another administrator's, or the division's, they can, and do, talk to me about their likes and dislikes. We have had some great conversations, and cleared up many mis-communications.
2. Practicality: we focus on what is actually going to make a difference for students and teachers. Other things might be important, but we try to keep the main thing in focus.
3. Accepting people for where they are: this often comes up in the evaluation process. Despite what we all want to believe about ourselves, we are not exceptional in every category. New teachers accept that they feel overwhelmed, and that is OK, because we talk about it and we pick one area to REALLY focus on and it helps them feel like they actually know what they are doing instead of just doing something because they need to fill the time. Veteran teachers pick the evaluative area that they feel weakest in and work on that area. For them to feel comfortable doing this it seems like #1 and #2 are a pre-requisite.

Apologies if this is too long, just felt a little clarification is worth the investment.

Len Tomasello's picture
Len Tomasello
Retired School Leader

I think I might be able to help. Are you seeking qualities that teachers may have that make them more open to change? I have some resources that might help.

christine's picture

There needs to be flexibility within education of students are to be successful. Administrators need to be flexible with their policies and modify them as necessary for the benefit of the school, staff, and students.

Sue Bartow's picture
Sue Bartow
Head of McGuffey Foundation School

I'm a better administrator and leader when I don't take comments, ventings, etc. personally. If I can stay focused on the purpose and ignore or laugh through something that seems like an attack, the discussion/collaboration/learning moves forward.

I think it's important to relentlessly pursue multiple avenues of communication.

Incorporating input from many sources to determine needs and goals and staying focused on those goals helps everyone feel a sense of progress. Add to that the need to be flexible and fairly selfless as the process goes forward.

Being patient (with others and myself) and taking the long view helps keep frustration at bay.

Karla Reiss's picture
Karla Reiss
President, The Change Place

I created an acronym as a means for helping school leaders think about successful strategies for creating change... become a CHANGEMASTER...
Challenge Assumptions
Have a Meaningful Purpose
Awareness of Limiting Beliefs
Nix the Negatives & Naysayers
Gather a Group
Emotionally Connect to the Goal
Maintain Momentum
Ask How Can I
See Success Smiling
Turn Talk to the Future
Expect & Welcome Discomfort
Remain Relentlessly Focused


Karla, author, Leadership Coaching for Educators
POWERful Coaching for Powerful Results certification training program

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