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How to lead when you aren’t officially a leader

How to lead when you aren't officially a leader

Building your leadership capability is necessary to gain a promotional role at school but how do you lead when you don't have the title? When you aren't officially leading?


By embracing this learning phase of your career, you can create lots of opportunity to practice if you are looking.  This blog will outline some tips to help you build your leadership skills even if you don't have the job yet.


A title doesn't equal a leader.

You don't need a title to do the job. You don't need the pay to do the job. Yes, those things are nice but as teachers, we lead every day. We are leaders of learning in our classrooms. We drive improvement with our students, catering to their needs and constantly improve ourselves. With each of your projects/initiatives/responsibilities, you are leading them. Ensure you have at least one other person on your team and that you are moving the initiative forward.


Don't wait for someone to ask you to do something

Part of being an aspiring leader is being part of the solution, not the problem. Look for places where improvements can be made that would benefit students and teachers. Waiting for someone else to notice an issue and then approach you as the solution would be incredibly rare. If you want to practice leadership, be your own best advocate.


Heading to someone in admin and letting them know there is a problem, and they should solve it, is not going to help you be seen as a leader. Present your identified problem to them along with possible solutions. Your solution may not be perfect, but it will get the ball rolling.


Talk to your direct line manager


As you embark on your leadership journey, ensure that there is someone in your school leadership that is aware you are leading an initiative. This could be your Head of Department, an AP, DP, or principal. When someone 'up top' knows you’re interested in preparing for promotion, your name will be mentioned during key meetings as a possible person to lead an improvement agenda.


They don't know what they don't know...so tell them.


Identify as an aspiring leader.

When you say that you are a teacher who wanting to be a leader, you are claiming that title. You are no longer ok with being a full-time teacher. You are ready to embrace the identify of leader.

When you do this, you'll start to notice the shifts in your awareness at school. You'll move to being solution focused to staff and student issues. You'll see others leadership skills and critically decide if that is the way you'll do things when you are in leadership.


Get in front of the staff.

Increasing your visibility at school is vital to being a leader. When you present at staff meetings about the initiatives you're leading, people see you being a leader. When you send emails regarding updates and necessary info about the projects you're leading, staff will start to connect that initiative you with and your name.


Don't be the best kept secret at school. You'll not get promoted if no one knows the work you are doing.


Connect with the school and state priorities.


Spend some time reading the key documents pertaining to your schools’ priorities. Knowing what your school leadership team is striving to achieve, you can position yourself to be part of the agenda and assist in its rollout. You can take that a step further and read key state documents as well.


When new initiatives come out from the state department, make sure you have your 'leadership' lens on. Instead of "What can I be doing to move this agenda forward", ask yourself, "What can I do to help the staff at school move this agenda forward." You need to lead other teachers to create leadership stories for them to go on your application.


In conclusion,

  1. A title doesn't equal a leader.
  2. Don't wait for someone to ask you to do something
  3. Talk to your direct line manager
  4. Identify as an aspiring leader.
  5. Get in front of the staff.
  6. Connect with the school and state priorities.


Starting your leadership journey is a time where a mentor can really provide the assistance you need to get the promotion you want sooner rather than later. I offer a free training on this topic. You can find out more here.