Firing on all cylinders – What makes an effective leader

July 27, 2016

Today we published research with the education and youth ‘think and action-tank’, LKMco, highlighting the sophisticated mix of skills that middle leaders need to guarantee the smooth effective running of operations and team management in schools.

LKMCo looked at departmental performance data, surveys of middle leaders’ behaviours and priorities, Teaching Leaders assessment centre scores and data collected from face-to-face interviews with heads of department; teachers; and senior leaders.

The findings will provide valuable insights for both Heads of Department and school leaders who are looking to spot, nurture and retain talent. The report highlights that while leadership qualities such as vision and inspiration are vital, ensuring middle leaders are effective people managers, in control of systems and processes within their remits, is just as important. Middle leaders must motivate and inspire, but they are also truly the ‘engine room’ of the school.

The report calls for middle leaders to be supported to learn skills such as effective team management, project- and resource-planning, as well as leadership and strategy, enabling slick operations to free staff up to focus on the quality of their teaching and on pupil progress.

The role of middle leaders in schools – such as heads of department or key stage, or pastoral leaders – is often overlooked and generally under-researched. That’s why we commissioned LKMCo to analyse the key skills that every middle leader needs, to gets to the heart of what differentiates good from great.

Our Chief Executive, James Toop, said: “We commissioned LKMco to write this report because we wanted to get inside the ‘black box’ of middle leadership: to understand what the best middle leaders do to deliver maximum impact for pupils. By using the results of this report we can ensure middle leaders focus their time on the aspects of their role that deliver greatest impact and that our programmes disproportionately develop these skills.

“If we are to truly eradicate the inequity of outcomes in our education system, we need our best middle leaders firing on all cylinders. This report gets to the heart of what differentiates good from great middle leadership.”

Read the report here.


This blog post originally appeared on the Teaching Leaders website. In November 2016 Teaching Leaders joined forces with The Future Leaders Trust to form Ambition School Leadership. Together we will tackle educational disadvantage faster and more effectively, improving the life chances of more of our most disadvantaged pupils. Click here to find out more about Ambition School Leadership.

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