Becoming A Better Leader…

A consistent theme running throughout this book is that everyone has leadership potential. We are not sure if everyone can learn to become a great leader, but there is strong evidence that with time and training, most people can become good, if not excellent leaders. Often, the long-term success of a significant reform or initiative in an educational institution rests on the premise that the educational institution can and will expand the leadership capabilities of its people so that the reform or initiative will be appropriately supported and led over the long-run.

In the past, the focus in PreK-12 schools has been primarily on training and improving the leadership capacity of principals, assistant principals, and top administrators of an educational institution. This book and this chapter stake the bold claim that in order to expand the leadership capacity of an educational institution to its fullest potential, every teacher, and every staff member, in the educational institution should be given both training in leadership and the opportunity to expand his or her leadership capabilities.

Leadership training and development is no longer for the few, and leadership is no longer by the few. The benefits of leadership were always supposed to be spread among all of us. One benefit of being a leader in an educational institution is that it can bring so much value to so many people so quickly. We declare that there is room for, and the need for, leaders at all levels in every PreK-12 school.

All educators lead. This chapter provides key guidance on how teachers can improve their own leadership capacity regarding how they operate in their schools and in all areas of their lives. The first question we seek to answer is how does an educational institution develop the leadership capabilities of its teachers, administrators and staff?

When enough teaches declare or self-identify themselves as leaders, when enough teachers proactively sense and work together with each other and administrators to solve upcoming challenges, when teachers learn that improving their own leadership skills increases student test scores significantly, there will be a groundswell by teachers that will be too strong to resist. Teachers will demand that they not be left out of the leadership development movement that has been sweeping this country for the past decade in so many other sectors, but seems to have bypassed PreK-12 education.

This chapter focuses on leadership at the organizational level, becoming part of the leadership team at your school. This may be a rough and tumble world at first, but over time one will look back at the days when all key decisions in a school were made by a principal or administrators who did not even work in the school, while teachers were ignored, as being “prehistoric.” The purpose of this chapter is not to depose the principal.

A teacher begins to become a better leader from the moment the teacher says, “I am now ready to be a leader. I am ready to take responsibility.” I am ready to work together to help lead this school, to help improve student performance, to help improve the working conditions of teachers, and to help America improve its PreK-12 educational institutions.” This means that teachers must lead themselves, individually and as a group, to constantly look for ways to improve student outcomes and teacher experiences.

Teachers who seek to become better leaders will be willing to be more involved in those areas of decision making and implementation traditionally reserved for principals and the few leaders in top positions of schools. It is legitimate to ask: How are principals and other traditionally recognized and well positioned school leaders going to react to this? We have some answers.