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An effective leader brings thoughtful innovation to a school and guides continuous improvement so everyone can succeed.


Highly effective principals raise the achievement of a typical student by between two and seven months of learning in a single school year.

Source: Education Next

Effective leadership is the single most important element in a healthy, vibrant, well-run school. The best school leaders wear many hats, foster leadership in others, and work collaboratively with staff members to create sustained success.

Great school leaders are visionary and pragmatic at the same time. They communicate clear goals for excellence and equity while assuring high-quality instruction for every student. They are also good managers, delegating responsibility strategically and making sure that all the pieces of the operational puzzle—schedule, staffing, space, and money—fit together while setting a positive and constructive tone.

School leaders are ambassadors who secure resources, forge alliances, and reach out to potential partners while engaging families, caregivers, and neighbors. They know the ins and outs of hiring in their districts or localities, and they know where to get advice. They have a deep understanding of instruction and an educational vision that responds to the diverse needs, goals, interests, and experiences of students. They are knowledgeable about adult learning and create a rich community of growth for teachers and staff.

When a school runs smoothly, everyone can thrive. An effective leader motivates others to step into leadership roles and inspires everyone to do their best work. The job of the school leader is never a solo mission.

Dive Deep

  1. teacher smiling
    The Transformative Effect of a Great Principal

    The New Leaders website is full of helpful resources, including its Transformational Leadership Framework and study of Ambitious Leadership in effective schools.

  2. student smiling holding a project
    The School Principal as Leader

    This report by the Wallace Foundation culls more than a decade of research on school leadership to distill the five key practices of effective school leaders.

  3. students and teacher together
    From Staff to Team

    Five practices that improve collaboration, from the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

  4. teacher at blackboard educating students
    Leadership Competencies for Student-Centered Schools

    What does it take to successfully lead schools that adopt learner-centered, personalized approaches to education? Explore these competencies to find out.

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