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How to be a successful educational leader

A woman smiles and holds folders in front of a yellow school bus

Those in high-up positions within schools, colleges and universities have the responsibility of guiding students, staff, teachers and parents to work together and achieve the shared aim of academic success.

It is a challenging and important task, and one that requires skill and courage. Discover the traits you need to become a great leader in the education field.

Unite the community

A school is a community. It is a cooperative of different parties who overall want the same thing but may disagree on how to get there. There are all sorts of power dynamics involved between these parties and a balance needs to be reached in order for the school to run smoothly.

A great educational leader will know how to communicate with everyone at their school, to get everyone what they want and to get different groups to work together.

Empower everyone

Whether it is students or staff, everyone should feel encouraged at your school. From your senior position, you should work to create an education environment that is empowering for all.

Students need to be able to believe in themselves, even when they are finding their subjects hard. Teachers need to know they are supported by senior staff members such as yourself when their workload becomes overwhelming.

Use resources effectively

Schools are constantly faced with resource constraints such as budget cuts. You may not always be able to acquire the academic materials, equipment, renovations and staff your school needs.

A skilled educational leader will make the most of what they have and allocate resources effectively within the best possible interests of school stakeholders.

As part of this role, you must listen to employees’ frustrations and desires involving resourcing in their department, and know how to prioritize which resources are needed and who should get them.

Execute a clear vision

Schools have their own unique vision for its students’ success and a mission statement for the school as whole.

A great leader in education will not only be able to decide on these in conjunction with others at the school, but will be able to implement these values into every action they take.

Having a focused vision helps to drive and motivate your own work as well as the efforts of those around you.

Promote inclusivity

Every member of staff and every one of the student body at the school will have their own personal needs. It is important that your school is a welcoming place for everyone and accommodates their needs.

At your school, there will be people with all different backgrounds, abilities, lifestyles and perspectives. You should work to ensure everyone brings what they have to build a collaborative, supportive and inclusive community.

Take risks

As an educational leader, you will have to make important decisions every day. These could be small, affecting only one department and with only a small amount of risk, or they could be large, affecting the wider school population.

In making these decisions, you need to have courage. Whilst it is essential that your decisions are informed and based on data, various people's opinions and past experience, you do not always know how a plan will play out. Without the courage to make bold new choices, your school will never reach bold new heights!

Keep on going

Sometimes your decisions will not pay off as you hoped they would and you will find your school may facing unexpected problems. Generally, you will face smaller challenges and will probably experience stress.

Keep moving forward in your role by considering the value of your work. Your leadership boosts the education of your students and sees your staff thrive in their careers. Think back to what you have achieved so far and imagine the great places your school could go to in the future.

Keep on learning

There are few places more suitable for lifelong learning than a school or university. You may not be a student yourself, but you will be able to do your best work of encouraging education if you take an active interest in what is being taught at your school.

Read your students’ work and visit lessons. Talk to teachers about the modules they are putting together and research new subjects to bring to the school.

Another form of learning as an educational leader is continually adopting new skills to maximize your effectiveness. Keep up-to-date with the latest teaching and leadership theories and make an effort to understand the issues being faced by people your students’ age at any given time.

Build your career as an education leader with an MA Education Management & Leadership at Eton University.

Don't have a undergraduate degree? Study a Diploma in Educational Leadership & Management at our partner institution Notting Hill College before moving onto the Eton University program.


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