Becoming an Effective Leader in K-12 Education

teacher in a classroom with students

Every educator is a leader, but leadership does not always come naturally to every educator. Fortunately, leadership is a skill that you can improve through higher education and experience. You may find it helpful to take a close look at the leaders you admire, whether they were educators or not. Figure out which qualities of those individuals made them most effective and strive to cultivate those qualities in yourself.


Establishing a Clearly Defined Vision

One thing struggling schools tend to have in common is chronic instability. Whether this means a new principal every year, a high teacher turnover rate or a constantly changing approach to curricula, this chronic instability is not conducive to student success or teacher morale. Establishing a stable school environment requires a clearly defined and consistent vision. Of course, it is perfectly acceptable—and often beneficial—to try new things, but the overarching vision of the school should be a reliable constant. Effective vision statements are shared by the entire school community. Invite all staff members to contribute their ideas, and take plenty of time to develop the final vision statement.

Developing Your Emotional Intelligence

The process of earning your doctoral degree will teach you more than just academic fundamentals. You will also gain a deeper appreciation for the role of emotional intelligence in education. Emotional intelligence includes:

  • Emotional self-awareness
  • Awareness of the emotions of others
  • Ability to self-manage one’s emotions
  • Ability to influence the emotions of others

In simple terms, putting yourself into the shoes of your team members will help you become a more effective communicator and collaborator. Remember that each staff member has a role to play, and all can make valuable contributions toward achieving the school’s shared visions. Lead through open discussion and persuasion rather than by issuing directives.

Managing Change with a Flexible Mindset

All school environments change over time, and are influenced by internal factors (the students and staff) and external factors (federal and state requirements, funding issues, etc.). Change isn’t the enemy, but the poor management of change is. Good K-12 school leaders approach change with an open mind. Learn about the issue from more than one or two stakeholders, encourage collaborative discussion, and strive for a consensus.

Looking Inward and Leading by Example

Another quality of effective school leaders is the capacity to self-evaluate. When a problem arises, accept responsibility for it and assess whether your own leadership may have contributed to it. Holding yourself accountable sets an example for the rest of the staff to follow. Additionally, good school leaders continually strive to cultivate improvement and professional development in teachers. They accomplish this by setting goals and challenges, and creating the conditions necessary for success.

The College of Doctoral Studies is accepting applications from individuals interested in pursuing our Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in K-12 Leadership. At Grand Canyon University, you’ll join a dynamic learning community, where students strive to serve and lead others. Click on the Request More Information button at the top of the website to find out if our degree program is a good fit for your career aspirations.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.


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