10 traits of successful leaders in Education

A leader in Education values the goals of their educational system and understands that nurturing, challenging and encouraging their students and faculty is of the utmost importance. A strong educational leader knows that showing up regularly and being present is half the battle when the US school system is struggling with economic turmoil and a decline in school safety. Today’s educational leaders understand that there is a need to look beyond the traditional school setting and change the status quo to keep up with modern challenges like technology and overcrowding. Here are some common traits found in successful school leaders – the results of their efforts shine through in the students, faculty and communities they serve.

Have a vision

Leaders with a vision have a goal of what they want their school to accomplish and a clear idea of how to get there. A vision or mission statement is a publicly declared statement of what the educational institution aims to achieve as a high-level goal. They understand that by rallying the teachers, students and community around this vision, they can provide a direction for all stakeholders. A strong vision that is well-articulated gives everyone on the team a clear direction and purpose, as well as an opportunity to bond with the rest of the team in a shared goal. When educational leader is passionate about their vision, they can inspire and motivate all those around them and create an excitement for learning that benefits everyone. Successful leaders do not stray from the vision and keep the staff on track when it looks like they may get diverted or sidetracked by other ideas that don’t fall in line with the mission of the school. 

This aspect of leadership in Education follows the individual throughout their career as it is constantly being evaluated and updated. The vision should be considered the over-arching goal of everyone in the school as well as community members involved with the educational institution. A successful leader will consistently uphold this vision through their actions. 

Empower staff

Successful educational leaders know that their greatest asset is the staff they depend on day in and day out. They also know that by empowering their staff, they are encouraging them to develop their skills and one day move into leadership positions with the right frame of mind. There are many ways school leaders can empower their staff, including delegating authority, giving them autonomy, helping them develop professionally, providing feedback and recognizing their accomplishments. In this way, school leaders can develop a passionate, committed and skilful staff that will move on in their careers to emulate the same level of excellence they were taught.

By delegating authority, leaders show that they respect and trust their staff enough to take on extra responsibilities. Delegation includes autonomy to do the job the way they think will fit if it backs up the school’s vision. This promotes creativity and confidence in the staff member when they can see their own visions brought to life. A successful leader will also empower staff by promoting their development. Workshops, retreats, seminars and conferences are just a few ways leaders can help their staff build the skills they need to be successful. Another important aspect of empowering staff is to recognize when they have accomplished extraordinary things. This shows that the school leader is paying attention and appreciates their contributions.

By empowering their staff, leaders in Education can also promote furthering Education and encourage faculty members to look beyond their current position, such as considering whether they should pursue a doctorate vs. PhD. Online schools such as Rockhurst University offer teachers and other faculty the opportunity to learn skills that can give them a leg up in academia and move into other leadership roles. 

Use data and resources effectively.

Successful school leaders use data to make informed decisions to help create opportunities for all students. Data is also analyzed to pinpoint resources that will help the faculty, students, and community achieve the primary goals of the institution. If a particular set of data shows there is a deficiency in cultural learning, then the leader can allocate resources to that area to encourage students to promote cultural awareness in a creative way. Data is also helpful in guiding the school leader to ask useful questions and display the information in ways that are understandable and compelling. This way, the data is not just used to point out where deficiencies lie but also the root causes of those problems. 

Data can also be used to identify students who may need additional support and give those students targeted interventions to help them succeed in the future. By leveraging data and resources effectively, school leaders can make informed decisions that lead to improved conditions for students and faculty. This creates an environment in which teachers and students can learn and thrive.

Create a community

Successful leaders in Education understand that a school can’t exist on an island and that it takes the whole community of parents, community leaders, students and faculty to make it work. Partnerships with these stakeholders ensure the school is building on a principle of inclusiveness and cultural responsiveness that is necessary for a diverse student body. School leaders should always be visible in their schools and the community they serve so that they develop trust and shared goals with all stakeholders. 

An effective educational leader knows that sitting in the office and delegating from a position behind a closed door doesn’t create the kind of school culture that advocates teamwork, inclusiveness and collaboration. Successful leaders know that they must engage everyone in contributing towards the vision set out by the school. 

Principals with strong community ties foster a welcoming environment that encourages open communication and participation, regardless of the student’s backgrounds, cultures or beliefs, which ensures that everyone feels valued and included throughout the school. They also encourage involvement and create a platform where students, teachers, parents, and the community can share their thoughts, ideas and opinions on school programs or activities. In addition, good principals promote a safe, constructive and supportive environment where all stakeholders have a meaningful say.

Strong educational leaders celebrate shared values and create annual events that showcase the shared values of the school community – for example, an annual celebratory event that honours the school’s diversity and inclusivity. This also leads to collaborating with different organizations within the community and supporting activities such as workshops, mentoring programs or internships that give students exposure to the real world or mentorship opportunities. 

Creating and fostering a feeling of trust and transparency is a fundamental step in creating a community around a school. Principals can hold regular meetings with parents and staff to share progress and ask for input on relevant issues. They can also create opportunities for meaningful engagement with the students and community by getting involved in student councils, club activities, school-wide projects or community service programs. This helps give students a sense of ownership in their school community and engages them more in the process of building and improving it. The goal is to create a school culture where individuals feel valued and supported, and in turn, foster a sense of belonging and commitment to the entire community.

Promote an atmosphere of collaboration and inclusiveness.

As mentioned previously, school leaders cannot lead successfully behind a closed office doors. It is not enough to simply mandate the staff and students to collaborate and include everyone in learning; an example must be set. The “do as I say, not as I do” form of leadership does not work today, so school leaders are urged to be a part of the environment in any capacity available. If there is a school play, the principal should be involved, either by greeting parents and students at the door or by making an announcement beforehand. If there is an outdoor event such as a school bake sale, carnival or other festivities, the principal needs to be at the forefront, extending their support to the organizers and participants. 

Collaboration and inclusiveness also mean checking on policies and systems regularly to make sure they are still working to provide an inclusive environment for students. Successful leaders in Education prioritize inclusive learning and believe that everyone – students, parents and faculty – can make important contributions to the greater community. They also encourage collaboration between students, teachers, parents and other community members. 

Be passionate

It is important to be passionate about the position you hold to be happy and successful. Leaders inspire others around them with their attitude towards the job at hand. If a leader is unenthusiastic, then those around them will likely display the same traits in the performance of their positions. When a principal or other educational leader shows passion and commitment to their vision, and that vision is one of inclusiveness and community, the staff and students will follow suit. School leaders have a huge effect on their school’s atmosphere and culture, as the staff and students will look to them to lead the way. 

People who are passionate about their positions can infect those around them with the same passion and enthusiasm, as most people want to follow a leader who respects and relies on them. Passionate leaders are not just enthusiastic about the goals of the school but also believe that everyone in the school has a fundamental role in the effort. Their passion extends to the students, teachers, community and educational excellence. When a leader is passionate, the students feel that energy and perform at their best, bringing creative ideas and vigour to their school day.

Encourage risk-taking

Failure is the greatest teaching tool for everyone involved in the educational process. Even spectacular failures can lead to amazing breakthroughs if examined and improved upon. Principals should encourage risk-taking with their teachers and students by supporting their initiatives and creating an environment where new ideas are encouraged and implemented. When teachers feel that they are at risk of being admonished for failing, they may be scared to take certain risks. This passes on to the students, who may feel discouraged to explore their ideas and expand on them. When a leader in Education creates a supportive environment that rewards extra effort and out-of-the-box thinking, then ideas have room to grow and eventually become successful. 

Educational leaders can create a safe and supportive environment where students, teachers and other stakeholders feel comfortable taking risks. This involves encouraging open communication and embracing mistakes as a natural part of the learning process. They should also model risk-taking themselves by taking calculated risks and being open about their own failures and successes. This can help create a culture where risk-taking is seen as a positive behaviour.

School leaders can encourage experimentation and creative problem-solving by providing opportunities for individuals to explore and try new approaches. This helps promote a growth mindset where failure is seen as an opportunity to learn and adapt. It is also important to celebrate successes and share these stories with the community. This can help build confidence and encourage others to take risks.

Another way leaders can provide support and encourage risk-taking is through resources, training and coaching to help individuals develop the skills they need to take risks successfully. These same leaders can create a learning culture where risk-taking is seen as part of the process of developing new ideas and approaches. This involves promoting a culture of curiosity, where individuals are encouraged to ask questions and explore possibilities.