How to Develop Leadership Capacity Among Members of Your Staff


The Professional Standards for Educational leaders, (formerly known as ISLLC Standards) suggest that effective educational leaders develop the professional capacity of school personnel and provide them with opportunities and mentoring. We know that simply leading from the top doesn’t work and that good leaders understand the value of shared leadership, and know that many voices and diversity of thought, yields better results.

Having leaders on your staff is a huge asset. When you know how to pinpoint leadership potential, you know who to engage in discussions, gather input from, and delegate authority and responsibilities, all of which benefits the organization. But how do you spot the leadership potential of those among your staff, and cultivate and capitalize on their skills and talents?

1. Pay Close Attention

The saying that “cream rises to the top” is generally true. Leadership potential should be obvious. The best future leaders demonstrate a willingness and desire to learn more, are often thinking ahead and are aspirational.

These are the people who are willing to put in the extra effort and show that they have both high skill and high will to work for the good of the organization. They are also the people who other staff members respect and trust and can help to build critical mass.

2. Consider Both Potential and Readiness

As you think about succession planning, ask yourself who might be able to fill your shoes in a year or two if they are supported, coached and mentored? That’s potential. These people demonstrate some ability and may have even articulated a desire or aspiration for greater responsibility.

Now ask yourself, who could do your job today? That’s readiness. These are people who understand the role and already possess many of the skills necessary for leadership.

Understanding the current and future needs of your organization can help you better develop a support strategy for both of these individuals. For example, a person who is ready, might be given autonomy to lead and complete a project or task in his/her own way, while a person with potential might benefit from opportunities to be on a project team where they can work with and learn from other leaders.

3. Recruit and Retain the Right People

In some cases, we inherit staff members, but when possible, be intentional and recruit and hire people who, among other skills and talents, also possess leadership potential. Instead of looking to fill a position or role that is specific to content knowledge, or that matches the performance criteria, also look for leadership potential.

Ask questions about how the candidate handles conflict or overcomes challenges, and how they can work with others to solve problems. Ask about how they work best when they are part of a community of practice, and what strategies they employ when plans are derailed.

No job is completely predictable. A good leader can face challenges at work with responsiveness and confidence, rather than sticking to a routine approach no matter what comes up. You want a leader who can take on challenges as they arise and handle them appropriately.

4. Look for Passion

Think about your own mentors. It’s likely you would describe them as passionate about their work. The employees who make the best leaders are always looking for ways to do better. They want to learn more, develop new skills, and bring fresh ideas to the table. They are motivated and determined to do better every day. They are PASSIONATE!

If an employee shows a real passion and hunger to learn more about how to be better at the job, they have great leadership potential. If they’re passionate, they create a greater likelihood of bringing out the passion in others. What they say matters, but how they say it matters more, so they should be warm, friendly, and relatable, showing a high level of emotional intelligence. They can easily have a conversation with students or staff that doesn’t feel one-sided and be a good listener who pays attention to others and can hear people out and respond with genuine interest. The best leaders are often not the people who talk the most or the loudest.

Now You Know How to Spot Leadership Potential Among Your Employees

As a leader, you have a responsibility to foster leadership skills in all of your employees. Share your expertise with them and share leadership responsibility because you can’t and shouldn’t do it all alone.

Want to learn more about leadership development and education? Schedule a consultation with us today.

5 Strategies to Improve Instructional Leadership in Schools


Being an instructional leader is an enormous responsibility, and sometimes can feel like a lonely job. Your role is to have an impact to the instructional core and influence how teachers and students engage with content so we get to teaching and learning.

While every school and every staff are different, there are certain key characteristics that principals share.

Below, we’ve outlined five strategies so that you can use the assets you have as principal to improve overall instructional leadership.

1. Instructional Leadership Starts in the Classroom

Instructional leadership starts with just that: instruction. Carve out time each day for informal walk-throughs. Commit (and calendar) to getting into at least 10 classrooms per day and providing teachers with targeted and focused feedback that will help them improve and grow.

These informal walk-throughs are vital for developing teachers, maintaining visibility with students and staff. It builds accountability in a culture of and for learning. They also help you to develop a data-driven snapshot of strengths and challenges. This helps you know where to spend your time and allocate resources and support.

These visits could be short, and the feedback you provide can simply be a “kudo” and “a wondering”. The key is to use the wondering to start a dialogue.

For example, “I wonder if you considered ways to make this lesson more culturally relevant to your students, if the level of engagement might increase?”

2. Give Consistent and Comprehensive Feedback

Both formal and informal observations should provide teachers with effective and manageable feedback. Post-observation discussions should be conversations about what was observed. Allow teachers to share the planning process they used, what students were learning, what mastery would look like, and to share student work products. Requesting specific questions they may want you to help them explore is important.

Post observation feedback is not an autopsy. It is an opportunity to for teachers to take the feedback, implement the suggested improvements, with time for practice and revisiting the impact of the feedback.

These feedback discussions should be part of a cycle for ongoing continuous improvement. They should allow teachers time and space to act on the feedback. Provide the chance to close the feedback loop without feeling that it will negatively impact their evaluation.

As an instructional leader, your greatest asset is working with teachers to deliver high-quality instruction. Much like when teachers provide students with effective feedback, it improves their performance, so too is the case when principals communicate consistently with their faculty and staff.

Keep feedback constructive, open and direct. Make sure that you plan for it by setting up formal appointments to discuss teacher performance. Planning and being prepared for feedback conversations helps insure that you are meaningfully engaged with the teacher in a two-way discussion. This signals mutual respect and value of the work being done to improve instructional quality.

3. Remember to Still Be a Teacher

Instructional leaders are still teachers despite a change in formal title to principal or assistant principal. Your audience may not be students, but as the instructional leader, you serve as the model.

Make sure you understand, and are willing to do what you’re requiring of your teachers. This doesn’t require you to be an expert in all content areas, but it does require that you maintain an understanding of best practice for teaching and learning.

Coach your teachers and provide shoulder to shoulder support as needed.

4. Continue to Learn and Stay Current

Professional development workshops and conferences are just one way to stay on top of current trends in education. Explore opportunities to learn from your professional peers on topics that interest you. This could be useful in your school.

Subscribe to journals and magazines such as ASCD Ed Leadership, read the Marshall Memo, Journal for Curriculum and Instruction, Insight, Journal of Teacher Leadership and Urban Educational Leadership, and ED Week to name a few.

School leadership doesn’t have to be a lonely job. Find and engage with colleagues who are willing to share what they’ve learned, and do the same as a member of a community of practice.

These conversations will be at the core of your growth as a leader and models your commitment to continuous improvement.

5. Reflect on Your Leadership

In the middle of a busy day, it can be hard to find the time for reflection, so it requires that you are intentional in giving yourself that time.

Take a few minutes at the end of each day to make note of anything that stood out to you. Keep your notes in a single place, and read through them to notice any patterns that emerge. Determine what you might need to do more of, start doing, stop doing, or figure out how to scale.

Where are you spending your time and energies?

How did a decision you made impact stakeholders?

What might you have done differently, better, sooner, next time?

Building in opportunities for you to reflect will help build your capacity to be an authentic leader. This helps you become aware of your own mistakes. Be clear about ways to address your challenge areas. Reflecting on your own practice allows you to seek to learn as well as help others to learn.

Ready to Become the Best Leader You Can Be?

Strong and effective instructional leadership can make a big difference in your school and for your teachers.

If you’re interested in learning new techniques or have any questions, contact us today.

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