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What Is School Leadership Theory?

Top-down leadership is crucial to the success of any school. Dedicated and supportƒive leaders and those who encourage others to provide the essential connections and programs fundamental to running a school are critical to education at every level.

An educational leader is a person teachers look to for guidance. Leaders with a refined vision for the future, excellent school progress, and a school’s development and performance are essential to the success of any institution. All schools need leaders who foster a positive and motivating culture for faculty and students. An advanced degree in educational administration can equip graduates to do this in any academic setting.

Characteristics of a School Leader

School leaders leave a lasting impact. For example, principals who take the time to get to know a teacher’s strengths can build suitable programs around them, benefitting every student. Educational leaders work hard to improve many aspects from increased student engagement to reduced employee absenteeism and use various methods and theories to obtain the best skills.

Influential leaders often form leadership teams to help achieve school goals. Leadership teams use different approaches to develop educational policies for their school and ensure resources are available to support them. Leaders also measure how various programs impact students by providing ongoing evaluations.

School leadership theory can be confusing and require adequate training to understand. Most theories of educational leadership lean on essential leadership elements such as capabilities, practices, and approaches. Theory components fall into three categories: educational leaders’ characteristics, concepts, and techniques.

School leaders, essential for every level of education, are charged with finding ways to improve learning and make educating students more efficient. Leadership theories are not one size fits all. They are successful based on the context of each setting and environment. School size, culture and other important contextual factors dictate the most applicable leadership style.

The Elements of Education Leadership

Academic leaders often work in small teams on a school site. Typical leadership jobs in an organizational setting are:

  • Principal
  • Superintendent
  • Head of school
  • Academic dean
  • Department chair
  • Athletic director
  • Lead teacher

School leaders face critical challenges. Some include ensuring educators employ good teaching and learning strategies and manage behavior and attendance. Great school leaders encourage parental support, strategically manage resources and the school environment, and develop partnerships beyond the school.

Education blogger Matthew Lynch says school leaders require significant reflection: “Effective leaders can turn internally and reflect on their growth,” he explains. “Although this isn’t always easy nor comfortable, leaders must be brutally honest when they evaluate their own progress, and the progress of the communities they lead.”

Management and organization skills help leaders create commonality to build a tight-knit school. Community building in the classroom is about creating a space in which students and instructors are committed to a shared learning goal through frequent collaboration and social interaction.

The Benefits of an Advanced Degree

Students are more likely to take ownership of their learning when they feel like they belong. Research proves that when students find social, emotional, and cognitive support, they take a much more active approach to their overall education. Students in supportive school atmospheres are more likely to engage in dialogue and reflection. They take responsibility due to the guidance and dedication of skilled educational leaders.

Creating conditions that promote school success and deliver measurable outcomes such as student achievement and progress are vital indicators of effective school leadership. Education professionals can gain the administrative skills necessary to lead school communities effectively through an advanced degree. Those looking to take their career to the next level might consider Emporia State University’s Master of Science (M.S.) in Educational Administration online program.

The course titled School Leadership Theory gives particular focus to the skills necessary to leading a school community. This course contains an overview of the research and practice related to a school leader’s responsibility to develop healthy organizations and create an organizational culture that promotes creativity and performance. Topics include major contemporary theories, leadership, empowerment, and diversity issues. Students delve into leadership for change, schools as unique social systems and complex organizations, and issues related to the evolving values and attitudes of different communities.

Learn more about Emporia State University’s online M.S. in Educational Administration program.

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