21 Leadership Habits

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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What leadership habits are required of school leaders?

Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going.”

Leadership habits – not exclusively – require bringing teachers together to share and discuss ideas about leadership and learning. This is something we do in schools, but is something we should be facilitating more often. Teachers and school leaders are doing this more and more online through social media and blogs.

@StaffRm is one example of this good practice, and another is in this blog about CPD: Let’s Talk About Teaching. This is a perfect example of teachers getting together for CPD to discuss classroom practice. Here’s what is looks like in a staff development session when leaders facilitate time to make it happen.

Facilitating Habit:

A buzzing space, full of classroom experiences, opinions and ideas.

But what leadership habits are required to motivate, inspire and lead other colleagues over a period of time?

Here are 21 leadership habits that all leaders should nurture in their work with students and colleagues in schools:

1. Teach:

… great school leaders teach first and foremost. Teaching students and their lessons come before anything else and quality is never compromised because of leadership workload.

2. Notice everything: 

… every leader’s job is dealing with problems and long-term strategy – the small details and the bigger picture. But the most successful school leaders always remember to prioritise everyday issues from the strategic ones.

3. Know everyone:

… great leaders know everyone in their organisation. From temporary, peripatetic and part-time staff, to staff who have been working in the organisation for years, no matter what role. More importantly, they take time to say hello and goodbye to absolutely everyone and know everybody’s name.

4. No excuses:

… strong leaders cut through the waffle, regardless of what’s going on. They ignore nonsense and are brave to lead others outside their organisation. These leaders set the standards for others.

5. High levels of energy: 

… It will come as no surprise, that a significant part of leadership begins and ends with effort – lots and lots of effort. Learn how to work well with others, how to build effective teams, and how to envision a bright future for your school and then guide people towards it.

6. Values and vision:

… values are what belong to you as a person, as a teacher. This will be the reason that get’s you out of bed in the morning. What are yours? As a leader, your values will need to align with your school’s ethos; to have faith in the school’s vision for your organisation, regardless of what lies ahead.

7. Influence on other people:

… be conscious of your influence on others. Colleagues will be watching your decisions and your behaviours when you least expect it. Sometimes you will be surprised what others have seen in you, but be prepared to accept that you will have a large influence on everyone and their perspective on your work and the work you do together.

8. Managing upwards:

… be very clear about what job you need to do – and do it. Managing up helps you get those things done; developing a good working relationship with colleagues. Better still: managing up is solving problems that your colleagues need you to solve. Don’t delagate a task you wouldn’t do (or can’t do) yourself.

9. Staying positive:

… even in the darkest days when your own well-being is challenged. Set yourself a routine for escaping from the daily grind; look after yourself and then you can look after others. There is no other leadership habit more important than this.

10. Problem-solving:

… leaders must be good at solving everyone else’s problems, or at least providing a sounding-board so that others can make an informed decision. So, it’s vital that leaders develop a strategy for weighing up all the options when needing to make an important decision; work out where, when and how you trouble-shoot problems.

11. Time management: 

… @JillBerry102‘s comments ring loudly here;

Daytime is for people, night-time is for policies.”

What’s urgent? What can wait? And how can something be dealt with? Would an email be quicker or actually a face to face conversation to reduce all those one-word emails. Pick up the phone; set yourself some realistic goals and for goodness sake, go home at a sensible hour.

shutterstock_281793260 One match standing out from the crowd, leadership, difference concept

Image: Shutterstock

What leadership habits are evident in your school leaders?

12. Motivation: 

… Employees want their leaders to be honest, fair, candid and forthright; to give everyone an equal shot at opportunities. Once this is established, motivation can come from positive and negative conversations once a relationship of trust has been established.

13. Evaluation and review:

… monitoring needs to happen in any organisation, but not if it is designed to ignore evaluation or review; to improve and eradicate bad practice. Design a schedule of evaluative exercises that are communicated with colleagues well in advance; involve staff and ensure that improvements are made as a result. No great leader was ever-successful as a result of tick boxing and/or policy-loving!

14. Coaching and mentoring:

… everyone needs a coach, and everyone needs mentoring. Know the difference between them and make sure you are doing this for a colleague. It’s the best way a leader can grow.

15. Difficult conversations:

… have the conversation sooner rather than later and stick to the facts. No one likes a leader not brave enough to support and challenge colleagues, including peers within the same team.

16. Dealing with conflict: 

… focus on the future; with respect and time for colleagues to reflect. It is also vital emotions are kept in check and that both parties feel that the issue has been discussed and resolved, even if an agreement has not been met.

17. Leading change:

… it is vital that the journey ahead is planned, communicated and consulted. Colleagues will want to be led, and at other times will want to be shown and then take the lead. Either way, leading change is an opportunity that comes along for everyone and not all of us will get it right. It’s important to make change a successful habit, and not one for ‘changes sake’. Try the 5 Minute Change Plan for a useful strategy.

21 Leadership Habits EduSketch SketchNote

18. Networking: 

… work in teams with groups whose energy and efforts really get things done. Recognise that for most people to do their very best work, they require the support and input from co-workers, peers, and their boss.

19. Listening: 

… when times are tough, leaders need to be that person in your organisation who people look to for inspiration. Avoid simply talking about what you would do. Instead, take action; sometimes listening is just enough.

20. Communication: 

… leaders make a habit of communicating openly and often to everyone in their school. They provide updates, reasons why things may be happening, provide time for consultations, provide feedback and motivate their staff with plenty opportunities to be listened to.

21. Knowledge:

…is power, but great leaders know that they cannot know everything. They rely on the people around them and make it known when their expertise is needed to help make informed decisions. Good leaders are not shy about sharing their weaknesses and are reflective of areas of their own development.

shutterstock_278275493 vector leadership concept,template

Image: Shutterstock

What leadership habits are evident in your school leaders? And what’s missing in you, or in others?

Leave a comment below if anything critical is missing …


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2 thoughts on “21 Leadership Habits

  1. Passion! It’s sort of covered in the excellent list drawn up already but I always feel it should be explicit. Under “influence on others”, with real unambiguous passion people are left in no doubt about a leaders commitment to children, staff and the wider community (including parents and carers). The shadow of a leader conversations that we had during NPQH or (if you were lucky enough) the New Visions preparation for headship was extremely useful in highlighting the “hidden” messages you give through your own behaviours.

    Also, the focus on distributing leadership (with the same passion) demonstrates to colleagues that you clearly have both trust in their potential and respect for their contribution whilst encouraging them to extend their professional development and, in turn, guarantee sustainability for your school.

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