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More Characteristics of Effective Leaders

By John Almond - August 5, 2010

(Part III in a series.)

In my last two articles, I focused on a few characteristics and attributes of highly effective leaders.  While there are no “silver bullets” to define effective leadership, there are additional factors worthy of consideration as you assess your effectiveness as a school/district leader.  As I mentioned in my previous articles, these factors are intended to be useful “food for thought” as you develop and hone your skills as a public school administrator.

  1. Accept Change.  Change is a reality in today’s educational system, and there will undoubtedly be additional changes as we move into the future.  Providing that those changes are research based, it is undoubtedly more beneficial for a district leader to become a change agent as opposed to playing the role of the victim.
  2. Set your Ego Aside.  As a leader, there will be times when you make mistakes.  Naturally, you want to minimize those. But when they inevitably occur, I would contend that you are far better off to admit your mistake, remedy the situation, and move forward.  You will command more respect by admitting your mistake than by trying to cover it up.
  3. Keep Your Personal Integrity and Honesty.  There is no doubt in my mind that personal integrity and honesty leads to long-term success.  As an administrator, you owe your fellow employees the reasons for your decisions.  They may disagree with you.  But if you are honest with them, they will most often continue to respect you.
  4. Be Media Friendly.  It simply pays to develop a relationship with the local media.  A local newspaper can make or break a school district leader.  By establishing a relationship, there is at least a strong likelihood that your side of the story will be printed.  In addition, a positive relationship will also improve your chances of having positive articles about what is occurring in your schools.
  5. Be a Visionary.  Being a visionary leader does not necessarily mean being a great innovator.  Sometimes it simply means being able to assimilate earlier innovations that led to student success.  A visionary leader, working with his/her administrative team, can create a collaborative vision that leads to student success. 
  6. Be Visible. Many administrators feel compelled to stay in their office in order to take care of the overwhelming paperwork.  While paperwork is a fact of life, I would contend that you are far better off to set aside time late in the day for this activity.  Students, staff, and community members need to see their school/district leaders.  In addition, you will never know how many problems you head off simply by being visible and observant.

Being a school leader has become an increasingly complex position to hold over the past 20 or 25 years.  While these tips for success are not new and innovative, they are certainly worthy of consideration and can be summarized rather succinctly.  As a school leader, you need to care about kids, staff, community, and yourself.  You need to work hard and have a passion for what you do.  You need to have patience with people and trust those around you.  Last but not least, you need to be organized, have a plan, and be visible in the school and community. In spite of all these demands, it’s a great job!   

To read Part One of this series, click here.

To read Part Two of this series, click here.

Editor's Note:  John Almond is a Senior Advisor with the educational consulting firm Total School Solutions (TSS).