“There are three essentials to leadership: humility, clarity and courage.” - Fuchan Yuan
Effective leaders must have a clear vision for progress and the ability to clearly articulate this vision to all stakeholders. In addition, effective leaders must be courageous in moving the work of ensuring learning for all students forward. To do this, relationships, authenticity, a growth mindset, and action orientation are necessary. As Michael Fullan states in The Moral Imperative Realized, “build relationships, focus on implementation, develop collaboration, connect to the outside, and be relentless.
Relationships: Building strong trusting relationships is the foundation of effective school leadership. A school leader must make every effort to build positive relationships with students, staff, families, and community members. It is through these relationships that a leader gains an understanding of the needs of their community. This knowledge allows a leader to develop a clear plan for their school and gain the endorsement of their community to rally behind necessary change efforts. A leader who understands the importance of relationships knows that change is a collaborative process that yields positive results when collective improvement efforts are made.
Authenticity: Leading with your authentic self, fosters trust and relationships. An authentic leader knows who they are and is clear about what they believe. This self-knowledge and clarity is what keeps a leader focused on the right work and can inspire others to engage in that work as well. An authentic leader is trusting and trustworthy. This reciprocation of trust among a leader and their followers creates a safe environment of learning and working for all.
Growth Mindset: Having a growth mindset is an essential characteristic of an effective leader. A leader must believe in the capacity of human beings to learn and grow and they must consistently convey this message to their constituents through their words and actions. This mindset empowers others and supports capacity building at all levels. No matter where an individual, group, or school community is on their journey, there is always room to grow, always room to get a little better. Modeling a growth mindset even in the most challenging of situations is a key lever towards moving a school from good to great.
Action Orientation: An effective leader must have the courage and sense of urgency to take action. Goal setting, input gathering, and planning are important pieces of school improvement but without implementation these efforts are all for not. A leader must make a commitment to action, must provide the necessary resources and support to their school community to ensure fidelity of implementation, and must hold individuals accountable for their role in implementation. Improvement efforts require work and it is the job of a leader to ensure this work gets done. Without hard work and collaboration, little change will be made.
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