One of the key attribute that good school leaders have is that they spend their time being proactive rather than reactive. The amount of stress created in a reactive environment is immense and does very little to assist in building staff morale and a positive school culture. Conversely, a proactive leader is able to maintain a calm, purposeful and cohesive working environment yet still industrious but without the associated drama that comes with being part of a reactive workplace.
So, what is it that proactive leaders do that enable them to create a better school culture and one that is more productive in improving outcomes not just for students but also staff?
- Proactive leaders have a clear vision and direction. They spend considerable time communicating that vision, not just in staff meetings but in small meetings and in one on one conversations. They can articulate the actionable steps needed to realise the vision or the objectives associated with it. Needless to say, staff are likely to be able to tell you where things are headed and their role in making things a happen.
- Coaching is a strong part of the proactive leader’s role. They spend time with their colleagues showing them what they want and how to get there. Considerable investment is made in training support staff to help, so that they feel valued and also a part of the vision and direction for the school. A proactive leader may also take time to understand specific processes, so that they have a grasp of what each person’s role is and the time and support needed to perform their role. They are able to establish teams that are self-reliant, so that the leader is not doing all the work. Proactive leaders will support their team in learning from errors rather than blaming or punishing them for mistakes.
- Proactive leaders keep up to date with developments in all facets of education. They spend time meeting with the key leadership roles with regular meetings and check-ins. Further to this, they take the time to fully understand all aspects of the running of a school not just teaching and learning. Having a finger on the pulse of educational developments and changing trends is also central to the proactive leader being able to plan ahead.
- Proactive leaders utilise their team effectively. They keep an ear to the ground always looking for feedback and on the lookout for problems that need to be solved, so long as they do not detract from the vision and objectives. They put trust in their teams to solve problems and recognise that they themselves do not have all the answers and can learn from others.
- Most important of all, proactive leaders are values driven and principled. Their colleagues clearly know what they are about and completely trust their school leader. Decision-making is always clear, putting the students and the school first in decision-making with a view to sustainable development over time.
School leaders who spend their time in a reactive mode are not efficient and they bear this high cost on those they work with. It is well worth spending time contemplating how we can become more proactive in support of creating healthy school cultures.