Leadership traits you need to practice to become a successful school leader

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In India, schools are the biggest learning institutions but their major responsibility is limited to imparting the predesigned syllabus without taking much effort into innovation of teaching aids. Efforts to shape most of these institutions that should develop further towards the well-being of all of its stakeholders ranging from students to non-teaching staff is quite limited.

Policymakers have already realized the importance of leadership skills for school leaders and institutional changes have been brought in the schools run by the Government of NCT Delhi. Along with Cell for School Leadership (CSL), SCERT conducts programs for Delhi Government Schools which impact students as well as teachers.

Several research studies emphasize that effective leadership of school leaders turns their schools into productive learning spaces through innovative means. The leaders at the school bring a special blend to the work and constantly review the day’s events to encourage lifelong learning (Precey, 2009).

It is a significant indication of the question of how schools should be “led”. Through this article, an attempt has been made on the leadership traits school leaders should develop that can be useful to run a successful institution. Here we will look at six important traits a school leader should adopt to run a successful institution.

1.  Setting  Goal, Vision, and Direction

Goals for any organization serve as the standard principles. Through these goals, leaders can create clearly stated objectives to guarantee the academic success of all students (Mendels & Mitgang, 2013). Creating goals helps to be focused, to prioritize needs and avoid wastage of time and effort working in the wrong direction. In that case, two types of goals should be categorized i.e. long-term and short-term.

Long-term goals are associated with infrastructural/facility development that can pave the way for skill development while short-term goals include bringing out institutional changes for bettering the learning environment.

However, depending on the school’s situation short-term goals could be made part of the long-term goals and vice-versa. Through a participatory approach, each stakeholder should be involved to channel their energies into achieving the goals and a sense of belongingness must be nurtured.

On a timely basis deviations from the goals should be spotted by the leaders and s/he should work towards mitigating those deviations. This also helps in monitoring the progress and evaluating the growth of the school per se.

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2. Monitoring Student Progress and Teacher Growth

The school leader should develop various methods to evaluate the academic performance and social and emotional well-being of students and the teacher’s teaching style. Through evaluation, the area of strength and areas of improvement can be analyzed and prioritized.

Evaluation should be conducted on a regular basis and should focus on the different skills rather than bookish knowledge. School leaders can evaluate the teacher’s performance themselves or can take professional help. As resources are limited, schools need to spend it on the most important areas by careful evaluation (Barkman, 2015). 

3. Time Management

The growth of schools also depends on effective time management by the school leader. But mostly school leaders use their time on day-to-day administrative activities which have no impact on student learning outcomes.

They should use/manage their time effectively and efficiently. Tasks like setting a vision and goal, staff training, student progress analysis, arrangement of the fund and finalizing the educational programs require proper time and regular intervention throughout the year. School leaders can delegate some work to others so that they can focus on the most important work which is mentioned above. (Barkman, 2015)

4. Constructive Interpersonal

The most important leadership trait includes effective people engagement. School leaders should have effective interpersonal skills. On an everyday basis school leaders have to interact with students, teachers, parents, and the community as a whole.

Stakeholders are from diverse backgrounds and have different priorities. School leaders need a skill set to handle different families because working with communities/parents who have different mindsets requires people skills. School leaders should be honest, caring, empathetic, active listeners, respect others, supportive, motivate others, and focus on the child’s learning to build a rapport with the stakeholders.

Rapport can be built only when one person trusts the other. School leaders have to work on gaining the trust of the parents/community (Lasater, 2016).

5. Self-Reflection

Self-reflection should be important to understand whether the efforts translate into achieving the goal or not and it is a key to self-awareness. Regular self-reflection can help the school leader analyze the good and bad decisions.

School leaders should take a pause and reflect on each decision taken. Learning from experience helps the school grow further. School leaders should be open to criticism which could enlighten herself/himself and can lead to new ideas.

Each stakeholder should do the exercise of self-reflection but the school leader’s reflection highly impacts the school because major decisions are taken by them. The self-reflection environment will always create great success and work on the feedback for the growth of the school. (Barkman, 2015)

6. Establishing a Culture

Culture is intangible and can be created by the people of the organization. In schools, the school leader is the person who creates the foundation of culture. Each member should feel that a school is a safe place and they can seek support.

Staff should feel free to share their innovative ideas for improving student learning. Individuals who put lots of effort into school development should be properly recognised. There should be a strong relationship between student-teachers, school leader-teachers and school leader-parents. Every stakeholder should be able to share his/her views/opinions/ideas on the school development by setting up a strong school culture (Barkman, 2015). 

Every school leader is unique in their way. They have their strengths and weaknesses. Everyone is working in a different context like location, community etc. Despite the individual differences, every school leader should embrace leadership traits to run a school successfully. The major traits highlighted in the article will help the school leaders to become successful leaders and lead by example. 

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