Unlocking the Nuances of Effective School Leadership

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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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Are you ready for school leadership?

I’ve been thinking about the essentials of authentic, transformative school leadership; the intricacies, application, and reflective possibilities that are required to lead others.

Stepping into school leadership is not just about a job title or a change in tasks; it’s a profound shift in workload, perspective and whole-school responsibility.

Leadership within a school goes beyond managing staff and students. It requires a teacher to be grounded in the school’s values and be consistent in behaviour, driving both its culture and direction. Effective leadership is paramount in schools, as it directly impacts the entire educational environment and subsequently, student outcomes.

We know that we need more teachers; we need school leaders too. When stepping up, it’s also worth considering what training you will need, and how you will continue to grow.

Consistency, authenticity, and a clear vision not only support the processes of leadership, but also inspire trust, respect, and commitment from both staff and students that surround such a person. Any school that can build a group of leaders (like this) as a foundation can propel a school towards enhanced learning experiences and outcomes that transform local communities. That’s quite an achievement, yet I don’t believe everyone who steps up to be a school leader, automatically becomes a great one!

What kind of leader do you want to be?

Teachers aspiring to be leaders should begin with self-awareness, perhaps completing a 360 review is a good start to determine if you are ready (or not).

Understanding your motivations and mistakes and honing in on your authentic leadership style will be essential. Simultaneously, building and maintaining strong relationships within the school community, from students to office staff. Prioritising teaching excellence, and ensuring that pedagogic responsibilities aren’t overshadowed by administrative duties is really important. Sometimes, school leaders ‘drop’ their classroom mojo as administrative tasks increase and their timetable decreases. Don’t become one of those leaders!

At a strategic level, you will need to cultivate a shared vision, sometimes ‘toeing the line’ with policies you may disagree with; allowing room for collective input and adaptability. Regular reflection on one’s leadership practices, coupled with continuous professional development, can refine your skills and keep your vision and passion alive. More importantly, learning from lots of different aspects of school priorities – those outside of your role and responsibilities – will help you become a bit of an ‘all-rounder’, and in my opinion, it’s that kind of leader who goes on to become headteachers and college principals …

Questions for teachers to consider:

  1. How does your current teaching ethos align with leadership values?
  2. Are you ready for the demands of consistent and authentic leadership?
  3. How would you ensure your vision aligns with the broader school ethos?
  4. How do you envision fostering genuine relationships within the school community?
  5. What strategies would you employ to maintain teaching excellence amidst leadership responsibilities?
  6. How open are you to collective feedback on your leadership vision?
  7. What continuous professional development areas appeal to you most as an aspiring leader?
  8. How would you ensure that safeguarding remains paramount?
  9. Are you prepared to prioritise relationship-building over administrative tasks in the initial phases of leadership?
  10. How will you manage the balance between being approachable and maintaining the behaviours expected of a leader?

Stepping into school leadership involves a profound shift in responsibility; aspiring leaders should prioritise self-awareness, teaching excellence, and relationship-building to have any chance of long-term success …

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