How to become a strategic leader?

How to become a strategic leader?

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strategic leader

Why is leadership important in school?

Effective school leaders use their expertise and management skills to focus their efforts, and those of their teaching staff, on improving the quality of student learning outcomes. However, just being a good leader is not sufficient these days; school leaders need to be strategic in their approach to ensure the school’s progress and growth.

What is strategic leadership?

In terms of school, strategic leadership is to influence the school’s staff to voluntarily make decisions to increase prospects for the school’s long-term success. But before that school leaders need to understand the key principles of strategic leadership.

Steps to become a Strategic Leader:

1. Understand what strategy is

The first step towards making the transition from an ordinary leader to a strategic leader is to understand what strategy means. Strategy is a framework for making decisions to achieve goals. It involves setting goals and priorities, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the actions. 

School leaders should set long-term visions for their schools. Strategy is a choice of which way you choose to get there. The strategy consists of short-term milestones called goals, which focus on tactics to choose actions to achieve those goals. The image below shows the ways to achieve these goals through strategic planning.

2. Adopt a strategic thinking mindset

One of the initial steps for being a strategic leader is changing the mindset. It is the key to motivation, which drives behaviour and actions, and also helps determine how to invest time and energy to achieve success. A strategic mindset allows for identifying threats before they become crises and grasping new opportunities.  To become a strategic leader, having the right mindset matters. Four ways to shift into a more strategic mindset:

a. Observe, Identify and adapt: Strategic leaders develop a routine way of thinking, make it a habit to constantly observe new sources of information, identify the trends, and adapt accordingly. 

b. Focus: Start carving time out on your calendar to focus on the big picture.

c. Question self: Keep questioning yourself in each process until you get to the correct strategic framework.

d. Restrategise: Learn from your experience and connect it with the future.

3. Consistently communicate the vision and strategy

Ensure educators and other teams are crystal clear on how they fit into the school’s vision. School leaders must consistently articulate the strategy for getting there with simplicity and clarity.

4. Operationalize your strategy with accountability:

It’s not just enough to communicate the vision. Strategic school leaders must operationalize their strategy by developing an accountability framework and reporting structure across teaching and non-teaching staff so that everyone clearly understands milestones and knows they will be measured against them.

Also Read: Simple guidelines to improve teaching quality and effectiveness in the classroom

When staff feel more accountable for their work they put in more effort and feel valued because they know they matter to the bigger vision of the school.

Key principles of a strategic leader: 

  • Delegate responsibilities 
  • Effective communication
  • Provide opportunities for innovative ideas
  • Make it safe to fail
  • Provide access to other strategies 
  • Develop opportunities for experiential-based learning 
  • Self-evaluation

Qualities to become a strategic leader:

  • Strategic leaders articulate the vision in a way that staff understands it easily
  • They think before taking action and control impulsive behaviour
  • They are self-motivated and influence others
  • They are self-aware of their thoughts, actions, and visions
  • Effective strategic leaders are emotionally intelligent and compassionate towards themselves and others

School leaders need to take time to reflect on which qualities they are good at and which they have to work on.

Actionables to become an efficient strategic leader:

1. Create an environment for testing new ideas

Teachers come up with new ideas for the classroom, parent engagement, and many other things in school. Create a safe environment for all staff of the school to share their ideas and give their valuable suggestions.  Let your team members express their thoughts and raise their voices. Try out the innovations they suggest.

2. Anticipate

There are a few threats that schools face usually such as Migration, parents’ attrition, financial crisis due to low fee collection, staff retention issues, and many more. Develop the ability to detect ambiguous threats and opportunities that exist around. Keep updated with market research and current educational trends. Talk to teaching-non-teaching staff, parents, students, suppliers, and partner organizations to understand their challenges. Use scenario planning to imagine the future and prepare for the unexpected. 

3. Challenge

To be strategic leaders, school leaders need to learn to examine their challenges at the micro level. Focus on the root cause of the problem. Ask questions to yourself using the 5 Whys. For example – Why is parent engagement so low? List out long-standing assumptions about an aspect of your school’s growth.

4. Interpret

Strategic school leaders have  good  interpretation skills. They interpret data and make sense of it and translate it to appropriate action to get expected results.  Instead of reflexively hearing what is expected, leaders should synthesize all the inputs they have. Strategic leaders push themselves to zoom in on details and out to see the big picture. Analyzing observation keenly will move towards becoming better strategic leaders.

5. Decision

Strategic leaders are tremendously good at taking thoughtful decisions.  Strategic leaders have the capacity to take decisions even with short information and time span.  Focus more on the data-driven decision, it helps leaders to make appropriate strategies for their school progress. It helps navigate strategy in the correct way.

6. Promote Learning:

One of the important traits of strategic leaders is that they keep learning new things and make their team learn for their personal and professional growth. To promote learning in the school, reward teachers who apply their learning and could get positive outcomes. Provide them with learning resources and workshops. 

There are enormous benefits of strategic leaders developing big perspectives, getting more clarity on tasks, creating a fine framework, encouraging a more collaborative environment and also building credibility among all staff in the school. It is important to inculcate strategy-based leadership in schools to make schools future ready.


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