Top 5 habits of effective leaders

Jane Wood-Chambers

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

It is one of the most precious and responsible roles in education, that of leading an educational setting.

Having that delegated responsibility can be, at times, overwhelming, but at best there is no other job like it for job satisfaction.

To work with a range of stakeholders to instigate change for all and ensure a quality education is provided, accessed and owned takes a certain character of educator and one with a range of experience, skills, knowledge and emotional intelligence.

Leadership sheet


To manage the workload, to remain level-headed and centred, to keep up to date with the latest educational research and political agenda, to acknowledge your moral purpose and to continue to be innovative and progressive requires a very specialised skill set and psyche.

What then are the top 5 habits of effective leaders? 

1. Managing the workload

The team you have around you and your personal drive and commitment to the role all contribute to the ability to personally manage your workload. It is all about the planning and the organisation.

Planning for the academic year, the term and the week ahead are the structures that support this process. Setting time aside on a Thursday to look at the week ahead and making sure all your meetings, tasks, thoughts and ideas are noted and given a day and time for further attention will pay dividends; especially when you enter your room first thing on a Monday morning.

2. Remaining calm and level-headed

You passed a gruelling process to secure your role and you are good at your job! We all have our ‘off’ days and our self-doubts. The secret is to remain calm and level-headed. Be like a swan; smooth and graceful on the surface, but with legs and feet madly paddling underneath.

Practice your technique and your self-management for de-stressing and planning any reaction you may be required to give. Try not to default to operational decisions, when strategic ones are needed.

Leadership march

3. Keeping up to date with the latest educational research and political agenda

Knowing the professional dialogue is essential for the role that you are in. Latest legislation, research findings and the academic thoughts and editorials should all be part of your reading material and personal development programme.

Block out an afternoon (Thursday is a good day) and make sure that you read and note take to ensure you are abreast of the national and local education debate.

4. Acknowledging your moral purpose

Remind yourself, on a daily basis, why you entered teaching and why you became a school leader. The best place to do this is in the classroom. Undertake a learning walk and move around your school; Nursery to Year 6 or Year 7 to the sixth form.

Pop out during break-times, eat your lunch with the children and chat with the parents and carers at the end of the school day. You are in that role because you make a difference and have a responsibility to educate all. Remind yourself of this at least 2-3 times a week, if not daily; it will help you to re-centre.

Leadership table

5. Continuing to be innovative and progressive

Becoming embedded in a pattern of leadership and delivery is a part of the leadership process. Sticking with a format for meetings, assemblies, policy writing, and lesson planning is key to ensuring that ideas and systems are given enough time to reap the rewards.

It is also important though to be innovative and progressive. Take risks sometimes and go with your gut. If you feel a Forest School of a mini farm would work in your setting, then suggest it and work towards achieving their realisation. 

This way of seeing can also be applied to other areas of your role; recruitment, parental engagement, progress and achievement, teaching and learning. 

Do not stop growing as a practitioner and never sit on your laurels. Leadership should be organic; moving and growing with you as you gain more experience and confidence, and remember it is also most certainly there to be enjoyed, so please do so!

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About our Community Expert

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Jane Wood-Chambers
Editorial Advisory Board Lead

Over 27 years of educational experiences in a number of settings. Developed a clear vision and ethos for inclusion which puts the child at the centre and a clear understanding of how to support, engage and nurture the individual.

Ability to train all staff through effective and reflective continual professional development in behavioural management techniques that begin, establish and maintain change in all.

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