What does it take to be a good educational leader?

03 June 2024

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©IIEP-UNESCO
Dr. Palena Neale at the IIEP Education Leadership Seminar 2024

Strong leadership skills are key to motivating individuals towards a common goal for the future of education. Whether conducting evidence-based assessments, crafting effective education policies, or ensuring successful implementation, educational leaders must define clear objectives, articulate their vision, and inspire teams to accomplish their mission.

In our inaugural six-week Education Leadership Seminar, which concluded on 26 April 2024, Dr. Palena Neale, a renowned leadership coach and keynote speaker, highlighted five essential ingredients to enhance leadership skills to transform education among the 30 participants from 21 countries worldwide.

Lead yourself before others

Leadership is dynamic - it changes and evolves like other disciplines and practices. As leadership has moved from command and control to include more diverse, empathic, and compassionate expressions of leadership more leaders-in-progress are able to situate themselves with these expressions of leadership. The first part of the leadership skills building component started by examining what kind of leader the participants would like to be in relation to their goals and values and what is needed in their contexts.

Emotional intelligence is part of this equation and is not only an essential leadership skill but also a life skill. It encompasses self-awareness, a growth mindset attitude, and empathy. A leader can convince and motivate their teams by first being able to manage their own emotions. If leadership is viewed as caring for others, it is equally crucial to extend this care inwardly and practice self-care.

Negotiate for a win-win

Whether in our personal or professional lives, we are constantly negotiating with others. Successful negotiators understand this and plan accordingly by clearly stating their needs while also seeking to understand those of the other party. It's not about winning at the expense of the other, but rather about achieving mutual success. Win-win negotiations require preparation, emotional intelligence, flexibility, and creativity to prioritize both relationships and results. A good leader doesn’t merely aim to win their case but seeks the best outcome for all stakeholders involved in the negotiation process.

Be aware of your context

To lead effectively, we have to understand our context. Decisions should be taken recognizing all the possible scenarios. Contextual awareness is about exploring our environment to identify what other factors might influence it so we can make the most informed and appropriate decisions.

Exercise your influence

Influence is the capacity to have an impact on the behaviors, attitudes, opinions, and choices of others. For an educational leader, it is crucial to master their influence to effectively communicate their vision and goals and to implement policy education. Therefore, building, managing, and nurturing relationships and networks are important steps to translate vision into action and consequently have a greater impact.

Communicate with impact

Communication is also an essential life and leadership skill. There is enormous power in asking questions and listening to build psychological safety and trust. Communicating with impact means presenting oneself as a positive role model, being persuasive, and demonstrating focus on the other person. Effective leaders are those who can communicate to their audiences, paying attention to both style and substance.

Why leadership?

The first edition of the Education Leadership Seminar focused on developing a combination of knowledge, teamwork, and leadership skills. While IIEP training previously focused more on hard knowledge, there are a range of soft skills, which are as important to transform education and successfully implement educational policies and plans.