Teacher Insights

The Importance of Educational Leadership in New School Programs

Effective educational leaders have a strong guiding power — a dream, a vision, or moral purpose. This vision drives them to want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. It encourages them to create a purpose that will make the world a better place. It motivates them to invite others to believe it and, in turn, create a culture in which all will thrive.

Early on in my teaching career, my moral purpose was to create lifelong learners. Later on that purpose evolved into creating lifelong learners that believe it is necessary to leave people and things better than when they found them. With the addition of new leadership responsibilities, my moral purpose and vision of leadership has expanded even more to facilitating the development of lifelong learners, thinkers, creators, collaborators, and leaders, not only for my students, but also all of my peers and coworkers.

As an educator, I have observed three key qualities in effective school leadership — communication, collaboration, and passion. Throughout all stages of new school programming — planning, implementation, and longevity — it is crucial that leaders exhibit these qualities. The M.A.Ed. Educational Leadership program at Concordia University St. Paul helped me develop these qualities.

What Role does Leadership Play in the Development of a New School Program?

Effective leadership plays a key role in the development of new school programs, and effective leaders are good communicators. Through my program at Concordia University St. Paul, I learned communication is a crucial component of leadership. It is especially important when trying to get a new program or initiative off the ground. Leaders need to develop trusting relationships by utilizing all levels of communication — talking, listening, and writing. They need to clearly communicate their vision to all of their stakeholders. They need to set concise plans, realistic goals, and expectations. It is during the planning stages that a good leader gets people on board and creates buy-in of this new program. Effective leaders build trust through communication that is transparent, reliable, and open. Trust enables strong relationships. Strong relationships help to develop new programming and initiatives. Taking the time during the planning stage to build strong relationships will pay off as time goes on.            

A few years ago as my district embarked on our quality compensation (QComp) journey for the first time, I was chosen to be one of our peer coaches. This was a new situation for all involved, and there were some skeptics. As a peer coach, it was my responsibility to create trusting and close relationships with my peers. Generally I am a friendly and outgoing person, so reaching out and talking came naturally for me. I was able to share resources, experiences, and skills with others, especially the ones I had gained during my time in educational leadership program. During this time, I also honed my skills of listening and reflection. Although the peer coaching position has evolved and changed over the years, I truly believe that the peer coaches built a solid foundation for its continued success.

What Role does Leadership Play in the Implementation of a New School Program?

Once again, leadership is a vital component of successful implementation of new school programs. Collaborative leaders are effective leaders. When implementing a new program or initiative, effective school leaders realize the importance of collaboration. When a leader expects people to collaborate, a school culture that knows the value of working together is created; it becomes contagious!

Collaborative leaders lead by example — they become role models for all stakeholders. In my educational leadership program I learned that, through collaborative efforts, effective leaders create opportunities to share leadership roles, which in turn creates new leaders. Collaborative leaders have a commitment to shared goals. They believe strongly in professional learning communities (PLCs). They believe in shared decision making and problem solving together. Collaborative leadership is key to creating change and empowering others to embark on the journey as well.

As the lead PLC facilitator for my district’s primary and elementary schools, I have witnessed first hand the power of collaboration. Seeing my grade-level teams working together to create common assessments, discuss student achievement, and then celebrate successes is awesome!

How can Leadership Ensure New Programs are Successful?

Passion and perseverance are key indicators to ensure that a new school program or initiative is successful and thrives for many years to come. Passionate leaders are effective leaders. They persevere. Passionate leaders are committed to lifelong learning and share that passion with others. They are not satisfied with the status quo. They continually push themselves to grow and challenge others to do the same. Leaders that are passionate ignite others to be passionate. This “fiery attitude” is then embedded into the climate of the school and ensures longevity of programs. Passionate leaders are committed. Research clearly supports the fact that consistent leadership positively affects student achievement. Effective leadership is fundamental to the success of every facet of education: teachers, students, programs, and schools.

We all know that in education, initiatives come and go like the seasons of the year! But what I have found is that passion breeds passion. I have had the pleasure of working with many passionate people throughout my years in education, including during my time at Concordia University St. Paul. I feel honored and proud to work among so many dedicated individuals each and every day. They strive to do what’s best for students, and after all, isn’t that what this is all about?

Ready to become a leader that effects change in your school with new programs and initiatives? Explore our educational leadership program and get started today!

Rebecca Sjolander
Elementary school teacher; M.A.Ed. in Educational Leadership
from Concordia University St. Paul, MN

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