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?

Popular posts from this blog

Some thoughts on Scottish education

This week I was asked if I would go along to speak to labour MSPs and MPs about Scottish education and schools. My brief was to talk about education. its current state, the reality of how the attainment gap can be tackled, how teachers can help government address the challenges of poverty, and how we might start to reinvest in our schools and our teaching staff. The politicians did not want to hear from the 'same people' who always spoke to them, and wanted to hear from someone 'fresh from the chalk-face'. I had forty five minutes, about twenty minutes input from me then a discussion and question and answer session. No pressure there then! Anyway, I gave it my best shot.

I started with a brief introduction to myself and my background, to give them some idea of who this person was, and why they might be able to help them and I tried to cover most of the following in my time slot.

I started with some the positives from our system.

Stuff we should be proud of:
Our learners …

A PISA My Mind

When John Swinney stood up in the Scottish parliament this week and described the performance of Scottish Education as making for 'uncomfortable reading' and that 'radical reform' was needed, he no doubt did this in the belief he was speaking from an informed position. He went on to pledge to bring 'an unwavering focus on improvement' and promised to carry out further reforms 'no matter how controversial.' His message was loud and clear, our performance is not good enough and he was going to change this. I wonder if he ever thought about the impact of his very public pronouncements had on teachers and school leaders as they were heading into their schools the next day? I suspect not.

So, what 'informed' Mr Swinney's assessment of the Scottish education system? Was it from the hundreds of visits he had made to Scottish schools since his appointment in May of this year? Was it from the conversations he had with thousands of pupils, teachers an…

Scottish education governance announcement

John Swinney has today made his long expected announcement regarding the governance structure he wishes to introduce into Scottish education. This announcement followed a consultation on his proposals and his determination that Scottish education needs to improve, and part of the way of achieving this is by giving headteachers, teachers and parents more say in what goes on in their schools, As you can imagine, there has been a lot of resistance to his proposals, especially from local authorities, who have an almost 100% responsibility for public schools at the moment.

When he stood up in the Scottish parliament, Mr Swinney announced that his new governance structure would be underpinned by three 'key pillars. These are to be enhanced career and development opportunities for teachers combined with a Headteacher Charter, Regional Improvement Collaboratives and Local Government.

The 'statutory Headteacher Charter' would sit at the heart of these reforms he said and this would…