Leadership- Here’s a Secret

Okay, a catchy title! However, are there really any secrets to leadership and leading a school?  It is not an easy question to answer.  Is there one thing an educator can do to be more effective? Absolutely not. Is there one quality all effective leaders have? I think there is–belief in their ability to influence students’ achievement.


In education, the concept of belief is defined by a person’s sense of efficacy, a strong belief they can make a difference in the lives of students.  Ideally, an entire staff should have high personal efficacy. Why?  Because a collective belief in the abilities and possibilities existing for each student in their school can affect achievement, behavior, and students’ self-efficacy. Students learn better and achieve more when people believe in them. Unfortunately, the opposite is equally true.


Seven Ways to Increase Efficacy

Here are my top seven ways to increase your efficacy and to positively impact the efficacy of your staff:

Communicate:  A school leader cannot under communicate a positive belief in students or staff.  When you are around a staff member who is negative about students let them know in a professional way that it is not acceptable.  If you say nothing, you give the impression you agree. Invest time in communicating your beliefs and be visible.  Increased visibility can lead to improved relationships through active listening and communication.

Climate:  A supportive school climate sets the tone for people to be productive and positive about work.  Reflect on these questions:  How collaborative you are as a leader? How welcoming is your school to the public? Are you easy to reach as a principal? Or are there many layers a person needs to pass through to see you?  Climate, alone, does not make a school effective. However, there is no doubt that successful schools have a healthy, positive climate and culture.

Be Positive:  This is a choice that great leaders make.  In education, great leaders communicate a positive message about the capabilities of students and staff to reach their individual potential.

Safety:  Staff and students perform their best when they are not fearful of punishment or reprisal.  A trusting environment where staff and students feel safe is needed for innovation, creativity, and for people to do their best. A key aspect of efficacy is optimism, which translates into a school’s staff believing that they can positively impact students’ lives as well as their own and colleagues.

Hiring Staff:  Teachers need to know instructional strategies and content but learning will not happen if they do not believe in the ability of students or their ability to meet the challenges they will face. If you sense an applicant is not student-centered and does not believe that all students can learn and move forward, then don’t hire them.

Professional Development:  Excellent professional development gives teachers skills to be more effective.  Improve your school’s climate and build efficacy by involving staff in professional discussions of what kinds of staff development they need.  Staff appreciate being involved versus being told what to do. By doing this, you can avoid efficacy being challenged because a teacher does not have the best practice strategies needed to support students.

Create Goals:  Work with staff to create goals meaningful to them and based on data. Involving staff in goal creation is empowering and increases ownership of the goals. Resist the easy route of telling people what to do. Goals rarely work when they are delivered as marching orders.


If you have read my other blogs it is clear that I put a great deal on the shoulders of the school leader.  The principal sets the tone models the culture and communicates the story through his or her words.  You will never find an effective school led by a person who does not believe in students.  But, the leader alone will not make an effective school.  Effective school leaders also hire and retain staff who collectively believe they can make a difference in the learning and lives of students.


What the principal tolerates defines leadership.
The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook