Your Turn: What Do Teachers Say Makes an Ideal Leader?

Pause – before you read on, answer this question:

What makes an ideal school leader? 

Got your answer?  Good!  That will be important later so don’t forget it.  

As we explore leadership this week, we wanted to hear directly from teachers about makes a great leader. Today guest blogger Allison Curran shares her perspective on this topic.  Allie is in her fourth year of teaching math in Washington, DC.  Her remarks follow.

When I think of an ideal school leader, I take for granted that this leader has experience in a classroom, and ideally, multiple different kinds of classrooms. Various grade levels, contents, and/or school settings would all expand the experience base of a school leader. But our ideal school leader shouldn’t just have teaching experience; he or she should be an outstanding teacher, one who can serve as a role model for the entire staff. Even after (perhaps) years of administrative experience, a school leader should still identify primarily as a teacher.

Coming from a teaching background and being personally an excellent teacher will help the school leader to be approachable and supportive. Teachers will feel comfortable coming to the leader with their problems, and they will know without a doubt that the leader is on their side. A large component of this comfort level will stem from the fact that the school leader is fair, neither playing favorites nor taking things personally. The leader’s general demeanor would best be described as positive and encouraging – of adults as well as of children.

In order to be successful, the school leader needs to have a clear vision for his or her school. What exactly the vision entails can vary; the important part is that the leader has fully developed and communicated this vision with students and staff. In general, the school leader is communicative and forward-thinking. He or she plans ahead and shares these plans with all relevant parties, resulting in a school environment where everyone is clear on logistics as well as the broader goal.

One of the most important responsibilities of a school leader is hiring a strong staff: finding hard-working and dedicated teachers and administrators who share in the leader’s vision and are driven to do their best every day. Once armed with a staff of motivated and well-intentioned teachers, the school leader needs to provide opportunities for that staff to develop and improve. And then – and this is the most important and yet often most challenging part – the school leader should trust that excellent, diligent, well-trained staff to do the jobs they were hired to do. Teachers and adminstrators should be treated as the professionals that they are, respected by the leader and their colleagues. A culture of accountability on all parts will create a focused and efficient workplace, as well as one where staff members feel valued.

Thanks Allie!  Now, we want to hear what you think!  Remember your answer to the question what makes an ideal school leader? at the beginning of this post.  How is your answer similar to or different from Allie’s?

Also thinking back to stage 1 of our framework, how does the leadership Allie described or that you envision relate to the three elements of transformational leadership: generative leadership, systems-thinking, cage-busting leadership?

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Categories: Stage 1: Adult Learning and Leadership

Tags: , , , ,

5 replies

  1. I think to treat all equally, encouraging each one to do better! That is the one most important issue SOME leaders have, and another important one is Lead By Example, earn your respect as a leader

  2. Well i really do think to make an excellent leader, is to treat all your workers or employers equally or in the same level, also i think it is very important to lead by example and be a good role model , it is also extremely important to encourage and be happy for their achievements!

  3. Well said Allie! I could not agree with you more. Being “armed with a staff of motivated and well-intentioned teachers” is so important. I find that I gravitate more towards co-workers who are team players with good attitudes:) I have a wonderful leader/mentor who helps me every step of the way! If I don’t know how to do something, I just ask. I always try to use the knowledge and resources that are available to me.

  4. Well written, but I would also add that you must honor that hard working and dedicated staff! Honoring staff lets them know their work is appreciated and motivates them to continue.

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