How leadership influences student learning

In the past, leadership was often seen as a top-down approach to solving problems and achieving goals. However, current research in leadership shows that the best way to lead is by building relationships with your team and fostering collaboration. This is particularly true for educators who are working to foster student learning! In fact, if you’re leading a classroom or school department then I guarantee you’re already doing some of these things. But by taking them one step further—and following these tips—you can help your team achieve more than they ever thought possible:

1. A leader must inspire ownership and responsibility

Leadership is about inspiring others to think and act as you would like them to. It involves setting clear goals and expectations, modeling the way, creating opportunities for collaboration, inspiring ownership and responsibility, and reflecting on successful practices.

A leader must inspire ownership and responsibility in order for students to become engaged learners. In the classroom, this can be done through giving students choices (but not all of them), asking questions that lead them toward conclusions rather than simply providing answers yourself, guiding discussions about issues that might interest your students (and if it doesn’t interest them— well then how will they learn?), allowing time outside of class for students to think about what they have been learning so far?

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2. A leader must develop a vision for collaboration

As a leader, you must develop a vision for collaboration. This is true for any organization, but it’s especially true for organizations that are built upon teamwork and community-building. A leader must create an environment where students feel comfortable sharing their ideas and working together on projects.

For example, when the teachers at my school were writing up lesson plans for the year, we noticed that many students were struggling with writing skills and needed extra support from their peers when drafting essays or reports.

So we decided to form small groups where each student took turns being “writer” while other members served as editors and proofreaders (or second writers).

This way everyone had equal input into every piece of work they produced as part of the group project—no one person dominated all aspects of group projects!

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3. A leader must cultivate trust

To achieve this, you must cultivate trust.

Trust is a key factor in leadership, and it’s built through honesty, transparency and respect.

If you can be open about your mistakes, encourage others to share their ideas and include them in decision-making processes—and if your decisions are based on careful research that takes into account all of the available information—students will feel more comfortable being honest with you about their experiences and sharing their ideas for improvement.

Trust is also built through consistency: If a leader promises something one day and changes his or her mind another day just because it’s convenient for him or her to do so (or has forgotten what they said), this sends mixed signals that undermine people’s ability to trust one another at work. Finally, trust is built through empathy:

When leaders listen carefully when employees share their concerns with them—and then follow up by addressing those concerns appropriately—they help build an environment where people feel heard and respected

4. A leader must set high expectations

As a leader, your job is to set the bar high. In order to do this effectively, you must set expectations for yourself, others and the organization as a whole—and then watch as these expectations become reality.

In leadership, setting high expectations is all about creating an environment of success where everyone can thrive.

As a team leader or manager in your organization (or even as an individual contributor), it’s important to know what it means to set high expectations so that you’re prepared for any potential challenges down the line:

5. A leader must reflect on practices and results

It’s important to reflect on practices and results because it helps leaders identify what worked, what didn’t work and how they can improve. As a leader, you may find yourself in a leadership role for the first time. It’s also possible that you’ve been leading for years but are still feeling like something is missing.

Reflective practice can help with this by allowing leaders to think more deeply about their work in order to improve the way they lead.

Reflecting on your own practice involves asking questions such as:

  • What have I done well?
  • Where could I have improved?
  • What did my students learn?

6. Leadership involves setting clear goals and expectations

Leadership is an important factor in student learning, and successful leadership requires a commitment to serving the educational needs of the students.

Leadership involves setting clear goals and expectations for all staff members, modeling the way by demonstrating appropriate behavior (including inviting others to join you), creating opportunities for collaboration between teachers and students, inspiring ownership and responsibility among all stakeholders, reflecting on successful practices, and providing feedback as needed.


Whether you are an educator, a parent of a student, or just someone interested in what makes good leaders, these five simple lessons can be applied to many situations.

If we reflect on these lessons and apply them ourselves, we might be able to improve our own lives and those of others.

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