School leaders set the tone and culture of the school – supporting their teachers to engage in lifelong learning and professional growth and demonstrating commitment to student achievement and well-being. Learning how to be a good leader is an ongoing process that requires acquiring and refining a set of specific skills.
Effective principals create, support and maintain cultures of learning, engaged teachers and engaged students. Leadership development programs help administrators become effective leaders in their schools, and they also support the development of teacher-leaders who play significant roles shaping a school’s culture of learning.
Good leadership contributes to student success
Research shows that leadership is “second only to classroom instruction as an influence on student learning” and that improving student achievement depends on having talented leaders (Leithwood et al., 2009, p. 9).
Effective principals and leaders foster a culture of learning and they ensure that teachers and students are engaged.
Leadership skills needed by early-career principals
It’s a big transition to go from teacher to administrator. Leadership development programs can help new administrators understand the changes in their roles and the new relationships and priorities they need to consider.
Although most early career principals have earned a master’s degree, their education may not have focused on leadership skills. Leadership development programs tailored to the needs of a district or geographical region can help principals develop the specific management and leadership skills to engage staff and create learning cultures.
These programs can help beginning administrators gain skills in building a culture of learning where continuous learning is valued and where learning is modelled by both administrators and teachers.
They also benefit from exploring effective ways to engage teachers and help them build their pedagogical skills. Learning how to build capacity in this way is one of the most important skills a new administrator can develop. They need to learn how to help teachers identify and build on their strengths and support them to overcome challenges.
Leadership skills needed by middle- and late-career principals
Leadership development programs can also provide support for middle- and late-career principals. Unlike early career administrators, middle and late-career principals may not require as much support learning managerial tasks. However, with ever-changing curriculum and requirements at all levels of the system, some refresher information sessions may be required.
Ongoing professional development is part of the job of being a school leader. Middle- and late-career principals can continue to benefit from developing their leadership skills and honing their ability to support and nurture teacher engagement and capacity.
Don’t overlook teacher-leaders
Leadership development programs can also support teacher-leaders who are skilled at bringing staff together, often taking on mentoring roles and modeling effective teaching practice. These individuals also benefit from the opportunity to think reflectively and explore strategies to support others.