A well-functioning leadership team is an essential component of the success of any school. I wanted to know what, in the experience of school leaders, makes for a strong leadership team – so I decided to draw on Schools for Children’s internal expertise. After interviewing each school leader and comparing their responses, eight instructive themes emerged. Here they are:
Strong leadership teams …
… know and trust each other.
Team members get to know each other and learn each other’s individual work styles, values, abilities and weaknesses. In this manner, and in the context of their shared dedication to the work, they learn to trust each other and draw on one another’s strengths.
… are mindful about communication and support among team members.
Teams count on effective, open communication and high levels of support. Team members enjoy the strong collaborative relationships that these traits foster. They feel heard and appreciated for their role in the school and on the team.
… establish shared goals.
Teams that are working from a shared set of values and goals work smart when they work in synch. This enables them to guide and support school initiatives, the professional growth of their staff, and the progress of their students.
… problem-solve together.
Team members routinely bring dilemmas to the group. They describe the situation that has them concerned, conduct needed research, brainstorm possible courses of action and support each other in implementing solutions.
… step back to observe the big picture in order to envision a different future.
Teams work to be proactive so that they are not constantly in a reactive mode. This is particularly important in relation to planning and visioning. They step back and imagine how they can make things better and then develop plans to effect change.
… welcome healthy conflict.
Teams understand that they must be honest, even courageous, about the goings-on at the school. Conflict is natural and conflict resolution is critical to a healthy school environment. They don’t let things slide, but rather put issues on the table and provide a forum to work through any conflict.
… are attentive to group processes.
Teams establish and honor group norms and processes. This may have to do with routines such as checking in at the beginning of meetings and summing things up (along with “to-do” lists) at the end of discussions. It may have to do with following an agenda, sharing air time, honoring confidentiality, and more.
… study leadership.
Teams value professional development and they model it within the leadership team itself. They may, for instance, read books about leadership, which in turn will inform their work as school leaders.
For school leaders (and others), feel free to use this checklist to inform your own practice. Tell us what other strategies you use for team building.