How to Establish Yourself as an Effective Leader in School

Twitter and Facebook feeds are awash with adorable pictures of kids starting school this week, but they’re not the only ones facing the new term with excitement mixed with a little bit of uncertainty and trepidation – plenty of school staff are too. This is especially true for colleagues entering into their first leadership role.

When leading a team of any type or size it’s important to get off on the right foot, here are our top tips to help you on your way. 

Acknowledge changing relationships

Returning to your existing school following a promotion can leave you facing new challenges as you now have to lead and manage staff you have previously had a different relationship with. Think carefully about what kind of relationship you want to establish with these staff and start as you mean to go on. It can be very hard to be someone’s boss as well as their friend so think carefully about how you will move forward with existing colleagues. However, having people you can really trust and rely on within your team is invaluable so don’t be so standoffish as to completely alienate existing friends.

Look for quick wins

When starting in any new role, have a look for tasks you can complete which are relatively straight-forward but highly visible and highly impactful. This sends the message ‘I’m here and I’m going to get things done’ – if you’ve been promoted within your existing school, think about the things that have been bothering you for some time that your predecessor didn’t address and try to fix one or two of them right away.

Be consistent

The thing that we all look for in our leaders and managers is consistency. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you say that certain behaviour is unacceptable then this needs to apply to all members of the team. Make sure that staff know what you expect of them, where to find you and how to receive your support when it’s needed. Being a solid, reliable team leader will mean that staff will be motivated when working as part of your team.

Do things with rather than for your team

Work with your team when determining aims and objectives and the best way of meeting these. A team who understands what they are doing and why will always be more motivated to work together and more invested in achieving their goals. Planning in isolation from your team is far less likely to lead to success, though it’s important to do a decent amount of prep work before working with your team to determine goals and strategies.

Follow up promptly

It’s so frustrating having a manager who constantly tells you they’re doing what you’ve asked of them, but doesn’t actually get it done. It’s also fairly typical. Don’t be that manager; be the one who actually follows up.

If for any reason you are unable to follow up promptly, or at all, talk to the member of staff in question and carefully revise their expectations or find an appropriate way to delegate the task. It’s far better to be honest if you’re unable to support than to leave team members waiting on follow up that will never materialise.

Prioritise carefully

Embarking on a leadership role can seem somewhat overwhelming. You’ll have all sorts of ideas you want to implement and your team will have ideas too. No doubt, the school will have a wish list for you to get through too. Think carefully about what order you tackle tasks in, in order to make the most effective use of your time. It’s also often a good idea to invest time and energy into supporting members of your team to take on responsibility for specific projects if you feel unable to manage them yourself, or if the member of staff is especially suited to the task or is ready to be stretched.

 Ask for, and act on, constructive criticism

As a new leader you’ll have a lot to learn – the best way to develop your knowledge and skills is to ask both those who manage you and those who you manage how you can improve. Open and honest communication about your strengths and weaknesses will give you the information you need to move your skills and abilities forwards. It’s also a good idea to periodically take time to reflect on how you feel things are going – remembering to consider both what is going as well as the areas you think you need to work on.

Be a good role model

One of the key roles of a leader is to model the behaviour they would like to see in their team. This means simple things like being on time, sticking to deadlines and communicating appropriately. It also means things like actively considering your work-life balance. If you answer emails at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon then you are signalling to your team that this is appropriate and desirable. In all that you do, consider carefully whether this is the type of behaviour you’d like to encourage in your team. If it is, carry on, if not then it’s time to get your thinking cap on!

Good luck to everyone embarking on a new leadership role this term. We wish you every success!

Creative Education provides a range of courses suitable for team leaders including:

NEW for 2014/15: New to Headship

Leadership Skills for New an Aspiring Middle Leaders

Leading a Team: a Course for Support Staff Team Leaders

Leading your Key Stage: A Guide to Leading from the Middle

New Roles and Responsibilities for Year Leaders and Tutors 

Coaching and Mentoring Skills for School Team Leaders