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Empowering leaders: what makes an effective school leader

School leaders are the foundation for students to become more engaged, encouraged, challenged, and nurtured during their learning years. School leaders also play an important role in affecting the morale, reputation, attitude, and culture of their teachers and the surrounding community. 

Just as teachers are the heartbeat of the classroom, school leaders are at the forefront of growing their learning environments—they’re role models and influencers who mentor, guide, and inspire everyone in their district. The success of students, teachers, schools, and the district itself hangs in the balance of their leaders.

So, what does it take to be an effective school leader? While there isn’t a cut and dry answer to this, there are certain skills, strategies, attitudes, and traits that many effective school leaders have in common. Read on to determine which of these qualities matches your leadership style, which could use some improvement, and if there are some that you haven’t started implementing yet, but should, so you can be the best school leader for your district.

1. Knowing the Importance of Building Community

School communities result from the successful partnership of students, teachers, parents, districts, and community members. Effective school leaders use these partnerships to create comprehensive, supportive, and socially ethical communities. 

The success of school communities relies heavily on the leader’s visibility in the community, paired with establishing trust, showing transparency with actions and decisions, and developing a shared sense of purpose with all partners.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”—Jack Welch, former GE CEO.

2. Empowering Teachers To Create Strong Leaders

Being able to trust in yourself and your teachers is important when building a collaborative and successful, positive learning environment. When teachers and support staff trust ‌their leaders are there with full support, they’re more likely to take risks, be more engaged and productive, collaborate with their peers, and become motivated to try new strategies—especially when you give them the freedom of autonomy in their curricula. 

According to a  recent Gallup poll, a mere 33% of U.S teachers are fully engaged in their work—51% aren’t engaged at all, and 16% remain actively disengaged. School leaders can enhance engagement by showing their support for teachers and encouraging them to continue learning so they can develop new opportunities to grow their career. This is essentially “grooming” your teachers to become stronger leaders. 

The same idea applies to students. When teachers and school leaders build trusting relationships with students, the students become more engaged, connected, and motivated to learn. 

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”—Sam Walton, Walmart and Sam’s Club Founder—once the richest man in America.

3. Leveraging The Latest Technology Resources

With all the latest EdTech platforms available to schools, leaders and teachers can become more resourceful with their time and productivity by using collected data from automated spreadsheets, reports, and real-time dashboards to make the right decisions for continuous learning and improvement. 

A report from the Wallace Foundation shows “When it comes to data, effective principals 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 collaborative inquiry among teachers.’”

Edsembli’s Ecosystem provides an all-in-one solution for Financial Management, HR & Payroll, and Student Information Systems. Interactive EdTech tools allow prominent leaders to better notice problematic areas using automated data. They use this invaluable information to make strategic decisions while collaborating with teachers, students, and parents to zero in on the root causes and overcome these challenges.

“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”—Rosalynn Carter, former First Lady and leading activist for mental health.

4. Sharing Foresights And ‌Plans

The best leaders need to be visionary leaders—having a strong sense of what’s best for their students, teachers, schools, district, and community and their social, academic, and emotional learning. Having a clear, collective vision among team members and the surrounding community paired with a well-executed plan to achieve your goals is a good starting point—but this doesn’t come without work. 

Your team may need your excitement, enthusiasm, and passion (it’s very contagious you know!) to build the motivation and inspiration needed for getting others on board to work collaboratively toward the same goals. It’s your responsibility to keep the momentum going by staying focused on the end goal and not getting sidetracked with issues that don’t affect your students.

“Leadership is the capacity to transform vision into reality”—Warren G.Bennis, founding chairman at USC’s Leadership Institute.

5. Supporting Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)

Effective school leaders keep up-to-date with all the latest news in education. If you’re one of those leaders, you’ve heard how children are thriving in learning environments customized to their individual needs, learning abilities, personal traits, and areas that may need special attention (such as mental health issues or learning disabilities). Individual education plans are a must-have on any EdTech platform these days.

Collaboration is key to successful individualized learning. The best way to create a well-rounded, needs-specific learning plan is by having continuous talks between students, teachers, and parents to figure out ways to offer the best possible outcomes for each student.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” — Nelson Mandela.

6. Being Passionate About Your Work

School leaders can make a tremendous impact on their school’s morale and cultures with how they display their own actions and emotions. Showing passion and enthusiasm for your work shows you’re not only dedicated to your cause, but that you care about the people around you.

Every effective leader must have this trait because being passionate is infectious—passion can motivate students to perform better, drive higher teacher satisfaction rates, and improve collaboration among your entire community to reach common goals. 

“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position,”—Brian Tracy, motivational speaker and self-development author.

7. Stepping Outside The Box

Most of us have been told that we learn from our mistakes. And this holds true into adulthood—however, many adults are more cautious about making mistakes as we’re generally more fearful of their potential consequences. 

Encouraging risk-taking should be a top-down strategy. When teachers see their leaders taking risks, regardless if they fail, those teachers are more inclined to take risks themselves. By modeling risk-taking, teachers give their students more confidence in their own abilities, and inspire them to do more/be more. It’s a top-down strategy that works.

To set this into motion, effective school leaders can start encouraging their teachers to take risks by being more creative with their curricula. Then those influential teachers can encourage their students to be more daring and creative with their work, and that can inspire growth and better experiences. A good leader not only encourages risk-taking, but rewards the efforts for having innovative ideas, regardless of outcome, as well as celebrating their successes.

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk…in a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”—Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Founder.

8. Practicing What You Preach

When a school leader leads by example, they can quickly earn the respect of parents, students, teachers, and their community. Admired for their integrity, they increase engagement and trust, and become exceptional role models. When it comes to leadership, actions really do speak louder than words, as the people around you pay attention to what you say, and do! If what you say doesn’t match your actions, it leads to inconsistency, frustration, and a lack of trust in your abilities. 

Expect many benefits when you lead by example:

  • A boost in school morale
  • Respect and trust among leaders and peers
  • Fosters a positive learning environment
  • Increased productivity from teachers
  • Enhanced performance in students
  • Increased collaboration in the community

“People of integrity and honesty not only practice what they preach, they are what they preach.”—David A. Bednar, educator and President of Idaho’s Brigham Young University from 1997 to 2004.

9. Fostering Long Term Commitment

Years of research show that frequent turnover in school leadership negatively affects school culture, morale, and the overall performance of both teachers and students. School leaders who don’t run from, but persevere through challenges and obstacles—while staying committed to their school—have an enormous positive impact on their staff and students. 

Did you know it can take a new leader an average of 5 years filled with dedication and commitment to recover a school’s loss of morale and culture due to loss of leadership? An effective school leader’s commitment to their division shows passion, perseverance, patience, and dedication while fostering morale and culture.

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”—Paul J. Meyer, Pioneer of the self-help industry.

10. Encouraging Continuous Learning

An effective leader accepts that knowing it all isn’t possible. Even outstanding leaders require continuous learning as the world around them constantly changes and evolves. Innovative ideas create endless possibilities—breakthroughs in teaching styles, techniques, and technology—as we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, can happen anytime. If you don’t keep up with the present, then how, as a leader, are you going to envision and plan for the future?

“The best leaders I’ve gotten to know aren’t just the boldest thinkers; they are the most insatiable learners.”—John Gardner, author and University Professor.

Enhance Your Leadership Skills With the Latest EdTech Tools

School leaders make some of the toughest decisions. Are you looking for an easier way to improve decision-making at every level—with full transparency from classrooms to your entire district? 

Edsembli’s all-in-one education software for schools makes it easier for you to become involved. Anytime. Anywhere. It’s really that simple with the Edsembli Ecosystem.

Get hands-on access to student files, data, and customized reports that make it easy to streamline daily operations and verify data accuracy, so you can put more focus on empowering the entire learning experience and watch your learning environments grow.

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