Leadership and Instruction
The US Army, with 242 year years of leadership development, says that leadership development starts with the raw materials - Rule number one: Choose leaders well.
Effective leadership constantly monitors the institution's core mission, establishes institutional mores and high standards, is decisive, communicates frequently, is confident in execution, and uses those traits to intervene when evidence indicates the institution is off-mission.
A foundational trait of highly effective leaders is the ability to influence others to have ownership in the institutional mission, and staying “on-mission” even in the absence of the leader. The essential after-action question in the Army is always, “Did we accomplish the mission?” If the answer is “no” there is a leadership problem. There is a deficit of influence. And influence is the key teacher trait, too. As Steve Jobs said, “Be a yardstick of quality.” Do things right.
But influence is not not the only trait that leaders and teachers share.
High standards High Standards
A foundational trait of highly effective corporation leadership is to choose the right building leaders, who will develop quality building-level teacher teams, who will work to accomplish its mission. Highly effective leaders also identify and develop subordinate leaders, provide directives that are clear, “well-defined, and precisely communicated” (Buckingham), and consistent in format, voice and application.
Leaders should lead by example, teach and train constantly, and create an environment where things get done and done right. They challenge others to be good stewards of the profession, and to get results. There must always be a mission focus, always bringing all stakeholders back to asking: what is our purpose, and how do we do it in the best way?
An essential question then becomes, What is the school’s mission?
And more to the point, what is the vision? A vision is a detailed description of what the school will look like when we are fully accomplishing our mission. The leadership should be able to describe this backwards and forwards.
The vision that the board and I share is that Blue River Valley Schools become the singular top-tier school choice in the area. The premier school. This vision is currently unrealized, but that is okay, we are in motion, moving.
To use a sports analogy, winning the game is the vision, the unrealized objective. The mission is playing the game as best you can. Like in games, a vision is completed by accumulating, meeting or scoring, “goals”
Our mission then, is to move forward and meet each of those goals that will make us that premier school. To put our best out there. And when one goal is met, we put our resources into the next one.
Teachers are Leaders
Tom Rath (co-author of Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow) writes that, “We all lead in very different ways, based on our talents and our limitations.”
And since the traits of leaders and teachers are the same, you can train teachers to be better leaders and they will become more effective teachers at the same time.
“The fundamental purpose of school is learning, not teaching.” (DuFour)
Effective leadership constantly monitors the core business of schools – instruction, which enables learning. A foundational trait of highly effective leaders is the ability to influence others to have ownership in the institutional mission. Since this is leadership, then all teachers should be selected based upon a preference for leadership traits and participate in systematic leadership development, which is much the same as teacher development.
In very high-performing schools, every teacher is a leader.
Leaders Focus on Outcomes
If the data doesn’t say it “is”… then it “isn’t.” Teachers, as leaders, must define and then measure learning outcomes. But they must also keep a focus on the outcomes of the school as a whole - each part supports every other part. There are no master teachers who do not mentor, share and model mastery in instruction every single day. Who are not servant-leaders.
Likewise, teachers who do not do these things will never be master teachers, even if they teach very well.
Marcus Buckingham (The One Thing You Need to Know) writes that leaders should “Define excellence vividly, quantitatively. Paint a picture for your most talented employees of what excellence looks like.”
And remember, most people rate teachers very high as professionals and people associate them with both interpersonal warmth and competence. Despite the politics here in Indiana, people do respect teachers and trust their professionalism.
Educators are leaders. It’s worth repeating: You can train teachers to be better leaders and they will become more effective teachers.
Professionals Sorted By Perceptions Of Warmth (Vertical) And Competence (Horizontal)