How Leadership, Communication, and Team Building Contribute to School Success

Jim Kallieris
Jim Kallieris
Coordinator of Language Acquisition; M.S. in Education
Group of educators sitting together and talking

An effective school leader must possess three unique qualities in order to contribute to school success. While these qualities are dynamic and complex, they are crucial towards obtaining organizational, personal, and student growth. The best school leaders understand their leadership style, communicate effectively, and build high-quality teams towards achieving a common goal of student growth and success.

What are the Different Types of Effective Leadership?

First and foremost, a school leader must understand the different types of effective leadership. It is important to know that there is not one best style or type of leadership. However, an effective leader must use all types of leadership depending on the situation.

Servant Leadership

A servant leader is one who believes just as much in the success of the school as s/he does in its stakeholders, including staff, parents, and the community. Servant leadership, sometimes called steward leadership, balances the needs of students, teachers, and parents with one’s own leadership commitments. S/he focuses on building a supportive community environment and maintains high expectations for relationships with all stakeholders.

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership is more of a “quid pro quo” style of leading that focuses on rewarding staff for meeting or exceeding standards. A transactional leader’s demeanor is more straightforward with a focus on organization and supervision. A transactional leader is less likely to seek change in the organization if things are currently working the way they were intended. Processes are valued more than new ideas in transactional leadership.

Emotional Leadership

Emotional leadership is a type that focuses on the emotional relationships within the building. Emotional leaders are trusted due to their high levels of emotional intelligence. They are great at negotiating with stakeholders and managing conflict. Every decision a school leader makes comes from his or her core values and beliefs. With a strong emotional intelligence, these decisions become easier for the emotional leader than other types of school leaders.

Transformational Leadership

The final major type of school leadership is transformational leadership. Transformational leaders have a clear vision of what success will look like in their school, and it is all centered on student growth and success. Their focus is on creating effective teams that work towards the common goal of improving student learning. They directly involve students and staff in the decision-making process. Lastly, they are continuously identifying areas of improvement while working with teams towards innovative solutions.

What Part does Communication Play in School Success?

No matter what leadership type an administrator might gravitate towards, s/he must have excellent communication skills in order to be effective. The role of school administrator is social in nature. Having an open line of communication with all stakeholders is vital to the success of the school.

School leaders must think critically about the words they use so that they may be the models of “walking the talk”. Every spoken or written word should come down to a student-centered focus of achievement and growth for all students. Regardless of the setting of the conversation, students, staff, and parents must believe that the school leader is speaking on behalf of the students. When a leader is able to effectively communicate why a specific change needs to take place based on the shared vision of student growth, all stakeholders can get behind that initiative in order to improve student learning.

Communication in writing, email, text, or spoken word must be clear and purposeful towards the common goal of student growth and achievement. Different opportunities to communicate effectively as the school leader include staff meetings, PLCs, parent conferences, assemblies, and evening family events. Successful school leaders use every opportunity to communicate the shared vision with all stakeholders.

Impact of Team Building in School Success

Excellent school leaders know that they cannot improve a school on their own. It takes several motivated adults working towards the same goal to achieve it. When a principal uses his/her leadership style and communicates the shared vision effectively, s/he will begin to notice which staff members will be allies towards the shared goal, and which ones might not be as supportive in this endeavor. Building quality teams is vital to meeting building goals.

Most schools have a Building Leadership Team, which is made up of a cross-section of the school staff. Typically there is a teacher representative from each grade level as well as members of the support staff including a social worker, psychologist, reading specialist, interventionist, etc. The goal of the Building Leadership Team is to use student data in order to create a School Improvement Plan focused on the greatest areas of need regarding student growth and achievement. Effective principals choose team members based on their effectiveness in their role, their initiative, their overall support of school improvement, and their flexibility when dealing with change. This team then relays information to the staff regarding the process of obtaining the school improvement goals.

Another school team of utmost importance is the Professional Learning Community (PLC). Effective leaders create a school schedule that provides time within the school day for teachers to meet in their PLCs. These meetings consist of grade-level, content-specific team members, support staff, and a building administrator. The purpose of PLCs is to create, score, and evaluate common formative and summative assessments. The PLC team asks three questions to lead their work during the course of the school year.

  1. What do we want students to know, understand, or be able to do?
  2. What will we do if students are not able to do these things?
  3. What will we do if students already know these things?

Building leaders who participate in PLCs gain insightful information regarding student growth based on actual data.

Being an effective school leader is no easy task. While the position of school principal may seem all-encompassing, focusing on the three qualities of leadership style, effective communication, and creating high-quality teams will put any administrator on the road to success.

*Updated March 2021
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