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The Best Leadership Styles for Education | Stephen Patterson, Orangefield

Leadership is commonly defined as the ability to influence or guide others. It’s a way of implementing plans and providing direction in order to motivate people towards a desired goal. The methods vary, not just because people’s inherent methodologies are unique but also because not every situation thrives under the same leadership style. In the education sector, […]

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Leadership is commonly defined as the ability to influence or guide others. It’s a way of implementing plans and providing direction in order to motivate people towards a desired goal. The methods vary, not just because people’s inherent methodologies are unique but also because not every situation thrives under the same leadership style. In the education sector, it helps to keep in mind that the goods and services are not only the children but also future members of society. For this reason, a more empathetic and moral approach is required than in a corporate setting.

Instructional leadership is the style that is most closely related to education. The biggest change over the years is the role of the principal. No longer just a top-down authoritative administrator, the principal of a school now serves as a mentor and coach to both teachers and students alike. When school is seen as a learning place instead of a working place, everyone thrives. Children who are taught by happier teachers will come out as more well-rounded individuals. 

Another approach that melds extremely well with an educational environment is the collaborative transformational leadership style. The American scholar, Bernard A. Bass, established the four attributes that make this successful: idealized influence, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, and individualized consideration. This style of leadership opens the door even wider to teachers and students looking for growth because it gives them more than just access to a coach and mentor. At the executive level, school teams hold meaningful discussions, act as role models, and have an active say in decision-making regarding curriculum goals. Much like instructional leadership, people are rewarded for exceptional work and high-performance, and others are given support to face any challenges. 

One of the reasons a collaborative style of leadership works is because of the human element. There is a base of trust and admiration established that motivates people to do better. Emotional intelligence (EI) is a skill that enables leaders to monitor and manage not only their own emotions but the emotions of others. This gives them the ability to energize their teams and help guide them towards the goal. Studies have shown that teachers thrive in this environment and choose to work harder and improve. This directly translates into improved student outcomes for life and long-term progress across the entire teaching system.

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