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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?

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