Skip to main content

The Six Qualities of Educational Leadership

I wrote a post a few weeks ago (The six tasks of leadership 12/12/15) following an article about Sir Tim Brighouse, who had identified what he thought were the six key tasks for school leaders. My own list was a bit different to Tim's but it also set me thinking about what might be the qualities you would look for in high performing school leaders. I give you my six as a stimulus for discussion and perhaps your own consideration of what qualities we should look for in school leaders.


  • The first is authenticity. I believe all school leaders need to be authentic and to really walk the walk of their talk. There can be nothing so dispiriting for school community members than being led by a leader who says one thing but does another. Remember to say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • I think the highest performing leaders possess emotional awareness. They know themselves well and they know the people they lead well too. They understand the importance of relationships and how to tap into the 'mood music' of those they lead. They will shape and adjust expectations according to meet the needs of all. They should like people.
  • They require intelligence to deal with the complexities of learning as well as the intracies of organisations in a constant state of change and development. They need this intelligence to make sense of the local and national political agendas that impact on what they do, and to manage all of this in a way that allows progress and prevents inertia in the face of all there is to do.
  • They need professional courage to always do the right thing. In a world of conflicting agendas and opinions it is not always easy to do the right thing. Leaders who are driven by their values, as well as their knowledge, are more able to take courageous decisions and do what needs to be done for the benefit of their learners.
  • It is essential that they understand learning deeply. School leaders need to lead learning and be the lead learners in their schools and to do this they require a strong understanding of learning and how to deconstruct this to make it accessible to all learners. They need to understand how to support teachers to develop their understanding of learning and their pedagogical practice.
  • They need professional curiosity. They need to read and be constantly looking to develop their understandings and practice. They critically engage with research and use research to inform their actions. They are relentless in their desire to improve, and to help others to do the same, and know how to use research to help with this.
There you have my six qualities for educational leadership. I am assuming such high performing leaders already have the qualities we would look for in high performing teachers, and many are the same. What have I missed?

Comments

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Power Within

I sent a tweet the other day which seemed to generate a deal of resonance with some on my PLN. What I said was that meaningful school development can only come from within and cannot be imposed from outside. Now 140 characters on Twitter does have benefits but, as anyone who tweets regularly knows, it also has huge limitations in what you can say. So what I would like to do here is offer some further explanation of what I was trying to convey in my tweet.

For many years well meaning and informed people have increased our understanding and have made constructive suggestions  on how schools can develop and move forward. We also know that there have been lots of other suggestions made by less informed but vocal contributors to this debate! As all in education and schools know, everyone has an opinion or view on what should be going on in our schools. The media loves to feed on all of this and much of it stokes the fires of debate and gives oxygen to some of the wilder suggestions.

As som…

Why we might need more tortoises and fewer hares in education

We have heard Aesop's fable of 'The Tortoise and the Hare.' In this tale with a message, a tortoise challenges an arrogant hare to a race. The hare quickly leaves the tortoise behind. Being so confident,  he decides to have a sleep midway through the race. When the hare wakes, he finds the tortoise, who has kept slowly moving forward, has arrived before him, and has won. A common interpretation of the message of this fable is 'slow and steady wins the race.'

Thinking of schools and education, I believe we celebrate hares too much, and tortoises not enough. School systems are full of people racing to do lots of things, as quickly as possible. Education is not a race. Education is a relentless process of personal enlightenment, growth and development. There is no end point. In that case, it is through adopting the dispositions and characteristics of the tortoise in Aesop's fable that we are most likely to keep making strong, steady progress. Such a relentless ap…

Improving versus proving

During the first two months of 2019 I have been able to attend a number of professional learning events across Scotland. What has been impressive about these events is, not only the breadth and range of development activity taking place across the system, but also the commitment, professionalism and determination of people to getting better at what they do.

What such events also provide, is the opportunity to develop my own thinking and understanding, through listening to the experiences of others and engage in a dialogue around the issues, experiences and insights of different participants. I believe that professional learning with the greatest impacts, should produce changes in facilitators and leaders, not just the participants.

This week I was facilitating a session on parental engagement, on behalf of Connect the parent/teacher organisation in Scotland. This session was with school leaders, and others who had responsibility for this particular area of school development. What I …