You’ve probably heard the old cliché, “Leaders aren’t born; they’re made.”
It’s true. Leaders grow their abilities through education and experience, and as a result the size of the team they lead can grow, too.
Georgia State Online offers several college courses and certificate programs designed to develop and grow your leadership skills, including its Tier I Educational Leadership Certificate program which focuses on preparing future leaders under the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL).
Developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Policy Board for Educational Administration, the PSELs provide guideposts that will help leaders make a difference every day in the learning and well being of students.
“They were able to determine the most important things leaders need to know and be able to do,” said Dr. Nick Sauers, Georgia State’s educational leadership unit coordinator and associate professor. “These standards are what our programs here are built around.”
These standards are crucial because what leaders need to know differs from that of faculty and staff. They must be adept at leading different initiatives, observing, evaluating and giving feedback.
“It’s a shift to thinking about how to lead initiatives, being in charge of leading people, hiring people and retaining people – from leading a classroom to leading the entire building,” Sauers said. “Those things are what we really try to focus on.”
Some of these abilities can come down to specific traits. Yinying Wang, Ed.D., regularly teaches on the traits of leaders in her educational leadership classes, and she has lectured on trait theory of leadership and if traits change in organizations.
“In short, the positive traits of leaders are extraversion, agreeableness, openness to experience, conscientiousness, humility, need for achievement and implicit power motive,” Wang said.
Traits you can develop
As you consider how to advance your education career, here are a few traits that can help you become a successful, effective leader.
Start with trust. Trust is a cornerstone of effective leadership. Author Megan Tschannen-Moran, who wrote Trust Matters: Leadership for Successful Schools reviewed research and literature in numerous fields searching for a common definition of trust and realized that many people take for granted what trust is but can’t quite define it.
She defines the idea this way:
"Trust is an individual’s or group’s willingness to be vulnerable to another party based on the confidence that the latter party is benevolent, reliable, competent, honest and open."
In schools with high levels of trust, teachers are motivated and willing to try new strategies,
students are motivated and connected to the school and families are supportive.
Purpose for your vision. Cheryl Norton is a respected former president at several universities, and in an article for Inside Higher Ed, she maintains the best educational leaders don’t just have a vision; they have a purpose:
Your vision must have a purpose -- a direction and a goal that guides the institution into the future. Know what you are working to achieve and develop a plan to get there. Keeping that focus in mind will allow you to make choices that support your vision and reject those projects that are out of sync with it. In essence, your vision will give you the criteria upon which to make decisions about the actions needed.
Keep learning. Many of the most successful leaders in any industry share one thing in common: they never stop learning. Sue Hawkes, an executive business coach and author, pointed to the value of ongoing learning in a piece at Business Insider:
"Learning new things, learning how you learn best, and unlearning things that no longer serve you are all part of being a lifelong learner. The more conscientiously you approach this, the more open and accessible you will be to new ideas, opportunities, and designing the life you want to live at work and home."
That’s why it is important for educational leaders to continue their education to ensure they are always leading with new ideas and considerations in mind.
Learn leadership here
If you are continuing your education with your eye on educational leadership opportunities, Georgia State Online has launched its Tier I Educational Leadership Certificate program. The online program, one of several certificate programs offered by Georgia State, is for those with an education-related master’s degree who are ready to take the next step towards a leadership role in a school or school district.
Amanda Lynch, who graduated from Georgia State’s online leadership certificate program in 2020 and was named the new assessment coordinator for Fulton County Schools, initially applied to the master’s program to prepare for a career in educational leadership. Her role requires her to lead a team of people who evaluate, develop and improve the school system’s assessments and assessment practices.
“I learned so much by interacting with my classmates from diverse backgrounds, districts and work and life experiences,” she said. “I know I have built meaningful friendships and networks that will continue to support me.”