In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, effective leaders in education are becoming more critical in guiding the values of a school, developing goals and building positive perceptions. At the same time, they understand the students’ needs, they inspire their colleagues and take action to drive change in their communities.
Those that master the behaviours of good leadership are worth their weight in gold. So, what exactly does it take to be an effective leader within a Christian school? Drawing upon my own teaching experiences, I’d like to shed some light on this topic with advice for effective leadership
Model personal integrity and be visible
There is an expectation that public figures, such as politicians, require personal integrity and transparency in their professional life and dealings with others. This is just as crucial in Christian education as it is in politics. The role of a teacher in modelling personal integrity can significantly affect the way they present themselves within the classroom and their ability to lead by example. Personal integrity, particularly within a Christian setting, is vital inside the classroom and out.
Part of building your personal integrity involves being visible within your community and being prepared to participate in school sporting events, meetings, fundraisers and concerts. This demonstrates that as a leader within the school, you truly care about how the school presents itself and you’re committed to the success of its students.
Put students and colleagues first
Particularly in secondary school, there is often a tendency to focus heavily on the administrative objectives of the school, yet what a good leader does is shift that focus towards his or her students and colleagues - who are the true epicentre of a school. Recognising and validating their significance within the system is the first step an effective leader must take.
Treating everyone with respect flows on from this and is a mark of a committed Christian - that is, talking to people, giving them your undivided attention and really focusing on each individual, showing them love and concern. If we look to the actions of Jesus, affirming those around you and finding the best in people can produce positive outcomes for both your professional relationships as well as improving efficiencies and initiatives throughout your school.
Be consistent, constantly reflect and look to the future
Effective leaders tend to be more consistent in their decision-making and behaviour, maintaining decorum and equilibrium no matter what situation they’re faced with. The way you respond is just as paramount as the situation itself. It demonstrates a lot about you as a person, certainly within a leadership context.
Developing a meta-cognitive disposition through reflection will enable you to further develop your leadership style, as well as acknowledge the effect that your actions have on others. Leaders must also be comfortable with making the hard decisions when necessary, while operating in a discreet and quiet way - similar to how God operates within our lives. This will enable them to act in the best interests of the school and its community.
Establish a good work/life balance
Good leaders are well-balanced; they work hard at not being consumed by the work they’re doing or the issues that may arise from certain classroom or staffroom situations. It’s essential that you’re able to continue to dedicate enough time to your hobbies and importantly, your family. Maintaining this balance and not allowing work to affect your personal life and commitments is of utmost importance. You should be able to walk away from your time there and not feel like you have lost a huge chunk of your life because of that.
We’ve found that a number of professionals from various sectors, particularly education, are looking for opportunities to grow their skills and build a solid framework around their leadership approach. These individuals value a Christian-based approach to their education, and are actively seeking out postgraduate study.
Further study can teach you more than the simple mechanics of advancing your career; it’s an investment into your personal development and your professional life. Postgraduate study can also be delivered online, which means you can continue to work while completing a degree.
Dr Peter Stiles is the Acting Head of Education at Excelsia College and shared these tips in a recent webinar, titled 'Leadership in Christian Education'. You can listen to the webinar below.