Four Approaches for Effective Executive Leadership

Four Approaches for Effective Executive Leadership
Four Approaches for Effective Executive Leadership

School Heads

Between COVID-19, economic recession, and political and social unrest, it is clear that schools must reevaluate priorities to deal with the realities of the current conditions. Every school’s future will rely on these considerations.

Effective executive leadership starts with a supportive Board. One of the most significant shifts in priorities should be for the Board to provide resources for the School Head. The Board should ensure that the School Head’s goals are realistic and strategic.

Successful Executive Leadership

While a Head’s job includes more than these four elements, in our current environment, it is vital to focus on these pieces.

  • predictability and support for the leadership team;
  • essential expectations and practicing good Head leadership characteristics;
  • the Board’s support of the Head; and
  • the Head’s well-being and support network.

In practice, the Board supports the Head so the Head can support the Leadership Team. The School Head and the Leadership Team support the faculty, who can then deliver the school's mission and effectively support the students.

#1: Create a Quality Head Support and Evaluation Committee

ISM recommends every Board create a Head Support and Evaluation Committee (HSEC). HSEC is the primary link between governance and operations. The Head should be comfortable bouncing ideas off them, but they should not need to be directly involved in operations.

The HSEC supports the Head through regularly scheduled, ongoing conversations—preferably monthly and specifically focusing on support. The Committee helps develop objectives, and provides resources to meet those objectives. We share more about the HSEC in Ideas & Perspectives, a publication for ISM’s members. (Learn more about becoming a member here.)

#2: Ensure Head Well-Being

The Head's well-being should be a top priority for the Board because it has a significant impact on faculty culture. In turn, the Board's support has a substantial effect on the Head's well-being. This support must demonstrate predictability and support by being a part of solutions, maintaining clarity in evaluations, and providing constructive feedback.

School Heads should have at least one colleague in the industry they can talk to about work-related issues as a means of personal support. Utilizing an outside resource like a mentor or coach will provide an outlet for the Head to brainstorm and share solutions.

The Head’s well-being will be directly reflected in professional satisfaction. Boards should encourage Heads to consider if they are leading purposeful and meaningful lives, and if their social relationships are supportive and rewarding.

#3: Use Evaluation Plans

Schoolwide evaluation plans should be clear and understood by the Head. The Board needs to have ongoing conversations with the Head about supporting them and how they will be evaluated. School Heads need to do the same for their direct reports.

Evaluations should be derived from the essential expectations of the job description. For administrators, this may include things like representing the school professionally and maintaining an appropriate demeanor.

Conversations about the evaluation process should be ongoing. The Board evaluates only one person: the Head. Leadership must understand that evaluation is meant to be helpful, and the Board should give positive reinforcement because appreciation matters.


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#4: Be Mindful of Leadership Traits and Operational Objectives

To effectively measure the School Head, examine areas like leadership traits, time management, and operational objectives.

Examples of good leadership traits include flexibility, predictability, and being a supportive person. Not all leadership traits are instinctual, so allow for professional development.

Examine where the School Head is devoting time and energy. Are they focusing on professional development culture and setting high expectations for faculty?

When evaluating the School Head, you'll need to assess their operational objectives.

The operational objectives of the position come from the strategic plan. Having a clear understanding of the evaluation outlines the expectations and frames communications. Meetings should be about operational purposes. Ask questions like:

  • How are you doing?
  • What resources do you need to achieve your goals?

By shifting your goals for the school year, the School Head will be better able to serve the students and mission. Use this time to create expectations for fall 2021 to ensure you’re ready for the unexpected—no matter what the future holds.


Roadmap to Year One: ISM’s New Head Accelerator

You’re starting a new Headship this summer or began one during one of the most unprecedented school years in education—now what? There are many questions to ask! Luckily, we have the answers. ISM Consultant Shannan Schuster, who recently finished a headship at The Swain School, Pennsylvania, will share her experiences, along with ISM tools and strategies to ensure your first year is productive and successful. Discover the invaluable framework that provides a roadmap to succeeding as a new Head.



Upcoming Events. Lead with Clarity.

3/17/2021 — 4/7/2021


Road Map to Year One: ISM’s New Head Accelerator

Status: Open


3/17/2021 — 3/18/2021


How to Move Past AP and Build a Mission- and Values-Based Curriculum

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