George Lucas Educational Foundation
School Leadership

7 Tips for Effective School Leadership

Streamline decision-making and improve communication—and staff buy-in—with these simple strategies.

February 6, 2020
Administrator meeting with staff in a cafeteria
Enigma / Alamy Stock Photo

For administrators to move beyond operational management to true leadership, they need to understand the capacity of their staff, promote open communication, and provide useful feedback, writes Matthew X. Joseph in District Administration. Joseph, director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment at Leicester Public Schools in Massachusetts, offers advice for administrators who seek to shift “from a building manager to an instructional leader.” His recommendations include:

Focus on respect rather than popularity. While it can be tempting to make a decision your staff might want, Joseph says to center your decision-making process around student needs. “I’ve found that if you keep students at the core of your decision-making and are consistent, most staffers will accept unpopular decisions, especially if you communicate your reasoning.”

Establish clear goals. In setting objectives, make sure to communicate with your staff so that they understand their roles in accomplishing those shared goals.

Listen to input from your staff. Avoid assuming your solution is the only solution, and intentionally set aside time for interacting with staff and responding to their concerns. Creating a people-first culture shows staff that you value their input and take their concerns seriously. Be strategic about your open-door policy, though: “Block out the times in your daily and weekly calendar to focus on students and your goals as well as being visible through classroom visits,” Joseph advises.

Lead by example. “Model the traits that you would like to see your staff members display,” Joseph writes. Even small actions—like where to eat lunch—can be an opportunity to model behavior you would like to see in your staff.

Provide regular, constructive feedback. Make sure to give your assessments as soon after an encounter as possible, and provide examples. Feedback doesn’t have to be negative. Use the opportunity to evaluate staff as a platform for offering praise and boosting confidence, Joseph says.

Delegate. Establish a relationship of trust with your staff such that you can delegate some responsibilities to them and free up your time for other priorities.

Make meetings matter. “Meeting for the sake of having regular meetings—particularly if there is nothing on the agenda—frustrates people,” Joseph writes. Eliminate meetings that aren’t serving your team by identifying specific outcomes for each meeting and distributing information in other, more time-efficient ways, such as email.

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