Becoming an effective instructional leader requires a wide range of skills, knowledge and tasks, but in doing so, a principal can create a learning environment that is more effective. Students prosper, teachers prosper and schools prosper when headed by an effective leader who is willing to invest in her own leadership skills.
What Makes an Effective Leader?
An effective leader needs many qualities, but what it boils down to is setting goals and creating plans that will lead to those goals. Effective leaders communicate with others in their organization and field, from teachers to other principals to superintendents. They listen and consider all options, problems and scenarios and then form proactive plans that further their vision and help create a better learning environment. This doesn’t mean that effective leaders don’t take risks, but they know when they are taking a risk and have a plan for possible consequences.
Effective instructional leaders should have firm grasp of a variety of theories, practices and their own concepts and philosophies. Principals need to keep up to date with the practices of effective school systems, they must be well-versed in communication and speaking and have an understanding of how to best develop administrative systems. They should know their schools' curriculums, both in theory and in practice, and be aware of what those curriculums teach students. Because of this, principals also need a good understanding of their own educational philosophy, so that they know where they are reaching their goals and where they are falling short.
Principals should strive to be effective leaders, and this means the supervision and evaluation of instruction. Knowing how classes are being taught helps them to evaluate the learning environment and its effects on students. They must be aware of their staff’s strengths and weakness, so that they can offer resources to improve classwork and communication and create a positive learning climate.
Leadership requires interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate with a wide range of different people. Creating an effective teaching environment means knowing what different people and different levels need in order to do their jobs well. Instructional leaders must be able to set goals, create plans to reach those goals, and research and evaluate techniques and strategies to smooth the way. They must be able to make decisions when given a range of options and have problem-solving and conflict management skills to deal with any issues that arise on the way to their goals.