Winter 2023

Attributes of An Educational Leader

Education leaders are charged with supporting communities of teachers, principals, parents, families, and students. A leader can turn a school or community around for the better, ensuring success for students and educators alike. Effective leaders understand the value of coaching and mentoring, for themselves as well as for teachers. School leaders know they need to completely support teachers and staff, encouraging them to constantly learn, grow, and, perhaps most importantly, be leaders themselves. With successful school leadership, schools become efficient incubators for learning, places where students are challenged, nurtured, and encouraged, as well as being taught.

Leadership is not just about being in charge, it’s about being able to influence your students and the community at large in a way that fosters growth and success.

There are many ways that educational leaders can nurture a safe, healthy environment for learning. Educational leaders can create an inclusive environment for all students, regardless of background or ability level. They can also encourage students from different backgrounds to come together and learn from one another (American University, 2020). Leaders also play a role in setting good examples for students by modeling behaviors that are authentic and supportive of their goals (Driscoll, 2022). Leaders who inspire others through their actions will have an impact on their schools as well as their communities.

Principals who create collaborative leadership teams are empowered to share their vision for standards and success for all students. A leader can turn a school or community around for the better, ensuring success for students and educators alike. Just as teachers are the center of a classroom, inspiring student success, education leaders are at the center of the community, leading students, teachers, schools, and even the entire district to success (Anderson, 2021). Every individual can be a leader to some degree, but education leaders are uniquely charged with supporting communities of teachers, principals, parents, families, and students (Mitha, 2021).

Just as a teacher guides children in their classrooms every day through activities designed to develop their skills in math or writing or reading comprehension, so too does an education leader guide youth toward academic success through activities designed to develop their skills in critical thinking and problem solving. An education leader should see themselves as a guide–someone who helps others achieve their goals by providing resources and expertise whenever needed (Mitha, 2021).

A leader is someone who influences others to follow a certain path. They have a vision and can communicate that vision in an effective manner. A leader also works with their team, setting goals and plans that build strength for students and teachers with whom they partner. They understand the value of coaching and mentoring, for themselves as well as for teachers in their schools. An effective leader builds relationship and works collaboratively with staff, parents, businesses, and communities in order to communicate their vision and to support student learning and progress (Latham, 2020). Effective education leaders set a good example, continually seeking new information in a variety of areas–from education innovations to important scientific advances–and sharing what they find with teachers and other employees (Anderson, 2021). Educational leaders recognize that every school is a highly dynamic environment striving to prepare students to succeed in a fast-evolving world (Lynch, 2020). Great school leaders know they need to surround themselves with great teachers and colleagues because these people are essential to the success of their school (Lathan, 2020).

The future of education is dependent upon the quality of leadership in schools. However, schools are not a single entity, but rather a community that is made up of many different organizations with their own unique needs and goals. As such, it is important that leaders work together to ensure that each organization has the resources they need to succeed. For this to happen, leaders must be able to understand each other’s goals and needs, as well as build relationships with other leaders within the school community (Driscoll, 2022).

Effective school leaders are those who are willing to create change and impact the lives of students, parents, and teachers that they serve. Communication, passion, drive, authenticity, community-building, and reflection are hallmarks of an educational leader who is willing to create change and impact the lives of students, parents, and teachers that they serve. Effective teachers and education role models not only play leadership roles throughout their careers, but they also lead lives that demonstrate the qualities of teacher leadership. Other leaders, like principals, apply leadership qualities including organizational skills and communication in order to effectively run schools (University of Wisconsin-Superior, 2018). Educational leadership also exists beyond the classroom, wherever those with influential positions seek to direct teachers, students, parents, or policymakers towards common education-related goals.

School leaders play an important role in creating the future. They are responsible for shaping policies, planning programs and activities that help students learn, managing finances and supplies, implementing systems that make it easier for teachers to teach effectively (Ministry of Education, 2018). Educational leaders work with parents and other community members who want their children educated well. It is our job as educators to create an environment where everyone has access to quality education (University of Kansas, 2019).

Communication is another hallmark of effective school leadership; they can effectively communicate with people at all levels within their organizations—from administrators who oversee curriculum and instruction to teachers who cater lessons for each grade level and student. The most effective school leaders share passion for learning, devotion to their work, empathy toward others, patience, curiosity, commitment, creativity, and humility.

In the education system today, there are many non-profit leaders and foundation leaders who offer classes, programs, funding, and education enrichment for students. Good schools are led by teachers, and principals passionate about making a difference for the children in their care. A passionate education leader deeply cares about his or her community and is enthusiastic about making each school day better than the last (Lynch, 2020; Knerl, 2018).

The first step to becoming an effective leader is to fully understand the needs of your community. The second step is to decide what you want your community to look like when it comes time for you to retire (Knerl, 2018; Lynch 2020). Once you have decided what you want your community to look like when you retire from teaching or running an organization (Knerl 2018), it is time to start implementing change through your actions. This may include acting towards improving social issues in your community such as poverty or lack of access to resources (Knerl 2018).

The world of education is changing. The way people learn and the way they teach are evolving. We have new tools at our disposal that can help us reach more students and improve education. These tools include technology which can be used in innovative ways to help us understand what motivates our kids as well as engage them in meaningful ways.

In this era of rapid change, it’s important for educators to focus on what really matters: improving student outcomes with every lesson, every day. 

Anderson, C. (2021). 6 Key Education Leadership Traits. American University (2020). Setting the Right Example: Teacher Leadership Qualities That Make a Difference.
Driscoll, D. (2022). Top 10 Characteristics of Awesome 21st Century School Leaders.
Integrity Coaching (2022). The 10 Key Skills of Successful School Leaders.
Knerl,.L.(2019). Three Essential Elements of Educational Leadership.
Lathan, J. (2020). 10 Effective Educational Leadership Qualities – University.
Lynch, M. (2020). What Makes a Great Educational Leader?
Mitha, C. (2021). How to be an effective school leader.
Ministry of Education (2012). Leading from the Middle: Educational Leadership for Middle and Senior Leaders.
University of Kansas (2019). What makes an effective leader in education?
University of Wisconsin-Superior (2018). 5 Qualities of Strong School Leaders.

Truman Spring, PhD is the Associate Director of the MEd in Leadership program, as well as the Director of Continuing Education for City University in Canada.

Heather Henderson, EdD is the Canadian Director of the MEd in Leadership program for City University in Canada.

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