How Effective School Leaders Create a Leadership Pipeline

I have studied education leadership for over a decade, and one of the things that prevent school districts from enjoying continuous success is the lack of leadership sustainability. They just don’t have a leadership pipeline that will ensure that when one leader leaves, another equally qualified person can take their place.

A teacher leadership pipeline looks like this in a school setting. As the principal, you know that eventually, you will have to retire or even better, be elevated to a higher position. Because of this, you start grooming select teachers to become leaders, thus ensuring a leadership pipeline. You don’t have to look very hard, as you already know which teachers have the charisma, natural leadership abilities, communication skills, and temperament that it takes to be a principal.

Once you start identifying them, begin the mentorship process by delegating various leadership tasks to them. You can tap them to lead a school committee, organize a school event, analyze a data set, lead a professional development session, attend a central office meeting in your place, take charge of the building while you are away or absent.

If they seem to take to the added responsibility, confide in them that you think that they would make an excellent school principal and encourage them to enroll in a Masters program in Educational Leadership. Once they become a licensed administrator, you can hand them increasingly more challenging tasks, and encourage them to apply for an assistant principal position in the district, or stay and help your school continue its successes.

In the case of developing the exisiting assistant principals at your school, you can build their leadership capacity by assigning them to handle a few of the most challenging tasks or duties that need to be completed. For instance, in a high school setting, you may have one to four assistant principals, depending on the size of the school. If you have two assistant principals, try assigning each leader two grades to manage.

One could manage 9th and 10th grade, and the other could lead 11th and 12th grade. Place them in charge of discipline, curriculum, teacher relations, professional development, parent relations, etc., while you oversee the big picture, helping out where needed. Believe you me, you will have plenty of things that keep your attention, and you will need to coach them through a lot of situations.

You can also ask them to help you with things outside of their immediate duties, such as budgeting, school transportation, IT, food services, etc. In the end, they will learn how to be administrators in their own right, and the leadership pipeline is complete. If you do leave, you can tap the strongest one to be your replacement.

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