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Enhancing People Skills in School Leadership: 4 Key Insights

There’s a few reasons why most public school superintendents lead multiple school systems by the end of their career.

One of those is the nature of school leadership. The average superintendent tenure lasts only a little more than three years. Whether because of internal crises, community politics, or school leader ambition, for better or worse, most superintendents don’t stay in one district for long.

The other reason is that truly great school leadership is hard to come by. When a good superintendent leaves a school system, the leader usually finds several districts vying for their talents.

So why is great school district leadership so elusive?

The truth: Real transformative leadership in any industry is tough to find. While there are many good managers out there, there’s far fewer truly great leaders.

In a recent post for Inc., Lolly Daskal writes that the key difference between good leadership and great leadership hinges on something many of today’s leaders lack: people skills.

As Daskal writes:

“The bottom line, having good people skills means you’ve developed your ability to engage, listen, communicate and relate to others on a personal and professional level. It means having the capability and willingness to work with others toward a common good that enables everyone to be successful.”

Daskal outlines several ways leaders can make people skills a central part of their leadership style. Here’s just a few of those ways, and how they especially apply to school district leaders.

#1 Keep everyone engaged

Whether it’s your students and their parents, your staff, or other key community stakeholders, a unified front is always the best way to tackle your school district’s toughest challenges.

Writes Daskal:

“When you can bring people together for a common purpose and shared goals, they become more productive, more engaged, and more likely to come up with creative and innovative ideas.”

District leaders who are able to start a two-way, ongoing conversation with their communities and get collective buy-in are best suited to achieve meaningful change.

#2 Be a master communicator

Communication is key to effective leadership. But a good communicator is one who listens.

“Seek to become a leader who listens before you speak,” writes Daskal, “who tries to hear the opinions of others before you give your opinion, who will hear to understand.”

In other words, effective communication is as much about listening as it is about actually saying something.

#3 Be self-aware

How often do you ask yourself how you’re doing as a district leader? How often do you ask your students, staff, and community members?

While Daskal points out how important it is for leaders to self-reflect on their own behavior, school leaders also need to take the community’s temperature on their leadership.

#4 Be dependable

“People need to know they have someone they can count on,” writes Daskal.

How often do you deliver on your promises? Do parents, students, and employees know how to get in touch with you? How quickly do you respond to inquiries?

To build real trust with your community, you need to make sure you can say yes to all of these questions. Dependability in how you communicate will translate to more trust from your community and more leeway to implement your strategies.

Do you follow these four tenets of effective school leadership? How do you ensure strong communication between you and your district? Tell us in the comments.