Key qualities of inspirational primary school leaders

What are the key qualities of an inspirational primary school leader?

Creating leaders at every level is an important task for all school leaders. When we stand in front of children, whether we are qualified teachers or learning support assistants, we are leading learning. Our children look to us for inspiration, creativity and the path to success. The challenge for school leaders today is to inspire their teams. We are always looking for our schools to improve, even when they are the best. As inspirational leaders, we need a portfolio of styles and behaviours to draw upon. In school, we need to develop our effective situational analysis and adapt our approaches to specific contexts.

Effective leaders are contemplative practitioners that develop and grow by using their understanding of self. The self knowledge of who you are and the fundamental understanding and appreciation of personal values enables us to develop our character and integrity, from this we can develop our authentic leadership style. We develop our own personal mind map of leadership skills and develop these by reflection, testing and questioning. As we become more self aware, develop a greater understanding of who we are, we then build on our capacity to lead and influence others.

Over the last 15 years one of the most famous proponents of emotional intelligence has been Daniel Goleman. Goleman defined EI as ‘Being aware of and in control of oneself whilst being aware of and able to manage relationships with others’. Goleman also came up with an interesting formula for success:

Average IQ + High EI = Success

We know that some of our most inspirational leaders are very emotionally intelligent but are not always the top of their class. What we do know is that great leaders move us. Great Leadership works through emotions. No matter what Leaders set out to do, their success depends on HOW they do it. Goleman stated Emotional Intelligence is the ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively. The key to a successful school is developing four fundamental capabilities: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and social skills.

In order to inspire our teams to be successful, we need to focus on developing the school rather than being the highest in the league tables or OFSTED criteria. We need to develop the highest possible standards, developing the culture and the character of our school. Inspirational leaders create the right environment for the right behaviours to occur. The key is to build a culture around the school that drives and demands the behaviours we need to be successful.

We know that a successful school has clarity of vision. The school, the staff, the children embody the vision. Every action and interaction is a result of the vision, the vision in action. Many schools would say that they have unique problems, cohort, catchment and staff retention, this prevents them reaching their goal of a successful school. However, many change initiatives fail because leaders are unable to convert that vision for staff and children into ordinary everyday actions. Knowing what those actions are is the key to being a super successful school.

By creating a culture of asking and re-asking fundamental questions you can remove the unhelpful beliefs that limit success and undermine the clarity of execution. A humble leader asks the simple question to all:“how can we do this better?”

By developing a facilitated style of interpersonal leadership in a learning environment concerned with adaptive problem solving and continuous improvement and in which humility – not knowing all the answers – makes us stronger.

The key qualities therefore of a strong, inspirational leader are humility, fierce resolve and the ability to communicate at all levels.


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