6 Things That Happen to a School When an Effective Education Leader Shows Up

During my seven years as a teacher, I worked in one school district that was in utter disarray. The principal was kind and intelligent, but they just did not have what it takes to be an effective education leader. I just couldn’t take the incompetence, and after one year I moved on. I really liked the principal on a personal level, but on a professional level, I was not growing, and neither were my colleagues or the students. If she were more effective, the school could have been a Blue Ribbon School. That begs the question, what happens to a school when an effective education leader shows up. I have some thoughts.

  1. School stakeholders begin to embrace failure as the path to victory. Failure can be the pathway to success, and great leaders know this. But knowing that failure is the pathway to success is not the same as accepting it. When a real leader shows up to your school building, when you fail, they will pick you up, and help you chart a course to victory. They know that continuing after failures is the key to success. This will be one of the most critical aspects of your school’s turnaround from bad to good to great. Everyone in the building will believe that they can achieve anything. Student growth will go through the roof, and your school will suddenly be looked at as a national model.
  2. Everyone learns the fundamentals. When a coach teaches someone how to play basketball, they focus on the fundamentals first. You know, things like dribbling, passing, proper shooting form, layups, free throws, and the rules. Once players master this, they can begin to practice on plays and then scrimmaging. Well, a good education leader is no different. They know that good teaching is all about the fundamentals. Once teachers master the foundational stuff, the rest comes easy. Because of this, great education leaders make sure that their educators and staff know the foundations of education and are up to date on the newest trends and methods in teaching and learning. From that point, student success can take care of itself.
  3. A permanent and perhaps radical change in the school environment and culture takes place. When education leaders are tasked with turning around an unsuccessful school, many focus on changing the school culture and environment. How do they do this? They use Invitational leadership, which is a school management model that aims to “invite” all interested stakeholders to succeed. The leadership model utilizes “invitations” as messages communicated to people, which inform them that they are valued, able, responsible, and worthwhile. The messages are sometimes transmitted by interpersonal action but are mostly disseminated through the institution’s policies, programs, practices, and physical environments.
  4. A new standard of excellence is introduced. An effective leader models what the optimal performance looks like. They become the living personification of what excellence will look like at their school. As a result, their performance is replicated by everyone in the school, including students. Education leaders are the ultimate bottleneck. Their failure to perform hinders the ability of others to perform. That’s why great leaders are determined to be the best version of themselves.
  5. Transparent performance metrics are established to hold everyone accountable. In a school helmed by a successful leader, everyone knows what is expected them and the metrics that will be used to determine if they are successful. That way, educators have clear metrics to measure themselves, so they can keep themselves accountable, and work on areas of weakness.
  6. They establish a winning culture before the school starts winning. You may have to read this phrase a couple of times before it makes sense to you. When an education leader takes over a failing school, there is usually a culture of losing, like a high school team that has been 0 and 12 each of the last 5 seasons. To counteract this, they instantly establish a culture of winning, where everyone believes that they will be successful. To help the school realize these aspirations, they provide teachers, parents, and students with the support and resources they need to be successful. What happens is that this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, with performance reflecting the stakeholder’s positive mindsets and hard work that they put in.

We have discussed 6 things that happen when an effective education leader show up? What did we miss?

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