Why More Teachers Need a Leadership Mindset

Teachers are unequivocally the leaders of their classrooms. Regardless of the course’s level or subject, teachers provide direction, instructions, guidance, and motivation to their classes, stepping directly into the responsibilities of a leader within any business. Yet, only the most accomplished teachers ― those recognized with awards and praise ― view themselves as leaders; in fact, most teachers lack the training to provide the leadership their students need to excel.

For the sake of the students, it is vital that more teachers learn leadership skills and qualities. By examining how renowned teacher-leaders think and act and by exploring how teachers can develop the proper mindset, more schools can benefit from having true leaders in classrooms.

How Recognized Teacher-Leaders Behave

Though modern education systems like Common Core are designed to limit the amount of variance between teachers, it is impossible to disagree that some teachers are better than others. Superior teachers are often recognized with awards and special responsibilities ― both of which mark them as teacher-leaders.

A study on teacher-leaders discovered that these unique educators behave differently than typical teachers. Though their specific actions depended on their tasks and schools, in general, teacher-leaders could effortlessly employ well-known leadership skills to organize and empower fellow teachers and students ― skills such as building trust, inspiring self-reliance, modeling approachability, identifying obstacles, and juggling a variety of responsibilities. Ultimately, such skills work to benefit students and teachers alike by improving the environment and facilitating learning.

What Leadership Training Can Bring to Schools

Though administrators tend to receive credit for the success or failure of schools, teachers are responsible for helping students excel. On average, a school administrator remains in a position or at an institution for three to four years; comparatively, most teachers remain in the profession for more than a decade, and many stick to a single school. Therefore, teachers hold the institutional memory, and they develop the school culture. When more teachers develop the leadership mindset, the school is bound to succeed.

In the study mentioned above, teacher-leaders were found to provide significant bonuses to their schools. For one, teachers learn to overcome challenges of their profession without consulting administration, which saves a school time and money. Additionally, teacher-leaders tend to be less socially isolated, which is a common problem among American educators.

Many teachers begin to feel separated from society due to the overwhelming work they must complete each week, and loneliness is a dangerous predictor of a number of health issues. However, by learning how to function as a leader, teachers can prevent feelings of isolation. Finally, teacher-leaders tend to exhibit more personal growth than their non-leader peers. Teacher-leaders are more likely to seek intellectual growth, perhaps through advanced degrees that will benefit them in their profession, and they are more likely to achieve of personal goals unrelated to work, thereby making a workforce of teacher-leaders happier, healthier, and more able to help students succeed.


How Teachers Can Grow a Leadership Mindset

Unfortunately, just as some teachers are notably better than others, some teachers might not naturally adopt the mindset of a leader. Therefore, school systems must actively develop teacher-leaders through carefully designed culture and programs.

Typically, school administrators initiate the development of the leadership mindset by having a vision and crafting a plan, but self-made teacher-leaders can also instigate leadership training in their fellow educators by working alongside open-minded administrators. A school must have sufficient support from its community and staff to foster leadership in its teachers. In particular, parents must learn the benefits of leadership in the classroom, and staff must understand and accept the imminent changes to their roles. A leadership development program for teachers will not excel without the interest and encouragement of those it concerns.

Most importantly, teachers must remember that it takes time and effort to become a leader, especially when skills such as perseverance, building rapport, and facilitating communication do not come naturally. Administrators and existing teacher-leaders must push for the change they want to see, celebrating any and all successes and pressing their peers for even more progress.

Though not every teacher looks or feels like a leader, it is important for teachers to develop the leadership mindset. By employing leaders’ skills and qualities, teachers can do more for their schools and their students than they might think possible ― and their eagerness to do the impossible is exactly why we need leaders around.

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