Tags:Distributed LeadershipTeacher LeadershipPrimarySecondary

5 min read

Teacher leadership: When paying it forward pays dividends

Leadership in New Zealand schools doesn’t rest solely with the principal.  

By distributing leadership throughout a team, you clarify accountabilities, efficiently delegate workload, and give all of your people the opportunity to thrive.

Typically, this distributed leadership begins with your senior leaders – DPs and APs and the like. But as recent research shows, teacher leadership is just as – if not more – critical for student success.  

What is teacher leadership?

Broadly speaking, teacher leadership is what it says it is – active teachers taking on more leadership roles within their school. As Charlotte Danielson explains, this is typically exhibited through a teacher’s sphere of influence expanding outside the classroom, as well as motivating and mobilising other individuals. It remains focused on the school’s ultimate vision and goals.  

Additionally, Leblanc and Shelton (2012) found that collaboration is fundamental for teacher leaders, while time is the most important resource to make it happen.  

This can mean that teacher leadership is a difficult concept to put into practice. With already long hours and staffing challenges for schools across New Zealand, a formalised programme to develop teachers into strong educational leaders can fall down the priority list.  

But for those who can implement such a strategy, it can pay dividends in the long-term.  

Principal and teachers making plans.

Distributing leadership all the way down 

When school leadership is distributed, it can have a significant positive influence on student outcomes. However, some methods of spreading leadership throughout a school are more effective than others.  

The above research – Seven Strong Claims Revisited - summarises a few key elements of successful distributed leadership:  

  • Basing responsibilities on expertise, rather than role  

  • Creation of new teams  

  • Focus on interactions over actions

  • Strong levels of leadership team cooperation and full participation in decision making 

Of course, the degree to which schools can do this will vary in each case. Some may be able to flip the system, as Kneyber and Evers put it, resulting in a completely teacher-driven model for how the school is run. Others may simply use their strategic plan as a blueprint, and begin assigning initiatives and actions to teachers with the relevant expertise – giving them control and the opportunity to develop their own leadership skills.  

The key is finding the balance between available resources, your teachers’ expertise, and the degree of change that your school can take on.  

In terms of in-school variables, educational leadership is second only to classroom teaching in impact on learners.

Why teacher leadership matters 

If you don’t focus on developing teacher leadership, you may miss out on significant impact for students.  

At Springboard Trust, we focus on school leadership - especially in our foundational courses like the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme. As principals continue their learning journey through our Alumni Services and School Innovation Services, we focus more and more on the leadership team and empower them with tools and frameworks to lead on their own.

It is vital that school leaders then impart this learning on their teachers.

As Seven Strong Claims notes, in terms of in-school variables, educational leadership is second only to classroom teaching in impact on learners.  

And while teachers must be given the resources and time to continue effective practice, developing teacher leadership brings a new dimension of growth into the fold.

Harris and Jones (2019) note that teachers who play an active role in creating change yield much more positive results in their school than ones who are “passive tools of policy delivery”.  

In the end, the message here is one of paying it forward. Teacher leadership will look different in every school context – but by empowering them to influence, collaborate and take responsibility, you can only deepen the pool of leadership in education and help learners succeed.

Want to know more about our programmes?

Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme (SLPP)

A free 10-month development programme for New Zealand principals. The Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme (SLPP) brings New Zealand principals together with strategic experts to develop your leadership and support clear, insightful planning for our schools - free of charge. Strategic leadership is a pivotal element for improved school performance. The ability to plan, manage and report as the fulcrum of your community ensures healthy relationships and the right conditions for everyone to thrive.   But too often, school leaders lack the time, knowledge or resources to learn strategic planning and put it into action.   SLPP under COVID-19 Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Springboard Trust has moved programming and workshops to an online environment - including the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme. This will mean online workshops and modules, with some minor changes to how we schedule longer workshops. For more information, please contact your Programme Manager. How does SLPP work?   1. Expression of interest  We can’t help you develop your leadership if we don’t know you’re there! All New Zealand principals are welcome to participate in the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme. You can get in touch with us here, and one of our Programme Managers will get back to you on availability for our next set of cohorts.   Our Programme Managers are some of the most experienced members of the Springboard Team and will be on hand to guide you through the SLPP journey, answering any and all questions you have. They’ll also be your main point of contact for post-SLPP programmes and services!   Please note that our journeys begin in Term One of each year, so getting in touch with us by the end of Term Two the year before is a good idea.   While we aim to give everyone an opportunity to take part in SLPP, our resourcing only allows for limited places, with schools in greatest need of our assistance given priority.   For volunteers interested in SLPP, please see our Volunteer Support page.   2. Finding your partner   In SLPP, you work extensively with a Capacity Partner – a volunteer from the business world who brings knowledge, trust and curiosity to the relationship.   Having run nearly 100 cohorts in the last decade, the Springboard Team is adept at finding people who work well together.   3. The workshops begin   Over 10 months, you and your Capacity Partner will meet as part of a ‘cohort’, with five to six other principal-capacity partner pairings and one volunteer facilitator (also from one of our major or strategic partners).   This peer-to-peer, cross-sector work means you get insight and understanding of strategic leadership that often isn’t possible on your own.   As a cohort, your progress through nine workshops, each focused on a core element of strategic planning.   4. Present and Celebrate  The final workshop is more of a celebration and reflection. You and the other principals in your cohort will present your strategic plans to everyone, before celebrating the progress you’ve made together alongside your partners and the Springboard Team.   While this ends the formal meetings of your group, many of our cohorts stick together long after the SLPP is complete – meeting quarterly, sharing advice on their strategic plans and continuously evolving their leadership skills.   Most principals who have completed SLPP will also want to continue their leadership development – for example, sharpening their annual planning skills or involving their leadership team in the same professional development. This is where our Alumni Services begin.   Why take on SLPP?   At Springboard, we believe we’re better together. By sharing tools, frameworks and expertise across sectors, principals and business leaders develop much greater understanding of each others’ roles and the common challenges and opportunities that they face as leaders.   This is reflected in New Zealand Council of Educational Research (NZCER) reporting we commissioned on the impacts of SLPP. Some 93 per cent of principals said this programme had a high or medium impact on their leadership.   In turn, this has a positive impact on leadership teams, teachers, and student opportunities.   What comes after SLPP?   The Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme is the first step on your development journey with Springboard Trust. Once you understand and apply strategic planning tools and frameworks yourself, it’s time to move on to areas like implementation, community engagement and distributing leadership across your teams.  Typically, we recommend the Recalibrate Your Strategy workshop as an excellent follow-up to SLPP in Term One the following year. However, alumni principals (those who have completed SLPP) are able to pursue any of the programmes and services we offer.   To find our more about SLPP or join our next cohort, click here.  

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Talent Management Workshop

With a New Zealand teaching workforce of 70,000 and counting, principals have a huge variety of people on their teams. Yet it is becoming more challenging to recruit and retain the right people at the right time.    Schools that don’t pay close attention to how their people are feeling, developing and responding to change will likely face higher turnover, and more issues implementing their strategic plans.   Springboard Trust’s Talent Management Workshop gives school leaders an insight into a framework for good talent management, supports schools to develop a people strategy, and gives you the tools to ensure everyone in your school can bring their best.   How does the Talent Management Workshop work? Talent management isn’t a set-and-forget action – it's a constantly evolving process, and one that needs a holistic focus at all times. As with everything, it’s all about the people.   In our Talent Management Workshop, you work with a facilitator and one of the Springboard Programme Managers to develop your school’s own view of talent management, where your team fits in the cycle, what is a priority area for you to start and what you need to do to ensure a healthy, happy team in the future.   The workshop is broken down into five stages, each representing a part of the talent management cycle: onboarding, development, retention, planning and attraction.   We will help you align a talent strategy to your strategic plan, helping you work with the right people for your vision and values. That may include identifying  solutions to address your talent gaps, where your team’s strengths lie, and how the talent management process never stops – even when you’re not actively looking for new people.   It is a half-day workshop, and takes approximately four hours.   What do you get out of the Talent Management Workshop?   Understand the talent management cycle and all its different stages.   Have a framework and tools to get the best out of your people.   Be able to develop a talent management/people strategy for your school.   Apply the GROW coaching model to support your existing and potential people.   Who is the Talent Management Workshop for? The Talent Management workshop is open to all alumni principals (those who have completed the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme) and works best when the leadership team attend the workshop together  To find out more about our next Talent Management workshop, contact your Programme Manager or head on over to our contact page.  

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High Performing Leaders (HPL)

High Performing Leaders (HPL) is a service designed to support principals, senior and middle school leaders to understand their strengths and how these can be leveraged in existing or future roles.  How does High Performing Leaders work?  HPL is a process of reflection, introspection and then connection. The Springboard team – along with our volunteers – provide a principal, senior or middle leader with coaching and guidance to help them decipher their strengths, areas for development and where they should focus their efforts.  This is supported by a comprehensive 360 degree feedback process involving up to 15 people the leader works or engages with.   Fully confidential, HPL provides a safe and supportive environment for all the feedback you need to thrive.   You will work through HPL in five one-on-one sessions alongside an expert volunteer coach, who will support you to unpack the feedback, set a goal and work on a plan to achieve your goal.  What do principals get out of High Performing Leaders? Springboard Trust’s leadership framework is a tried and tested model for not just strong school leadership, but the flow-on impacts of that leadership to the rest of the school and wider community. It correlates with the Education Council’s Leadership Framework, as well as the Mental Health Foundation’s 5 Ways to Wellbeing model.   Through 360 feedback and coaching in HPL, principals will:  Foster trust, safety, creativity and exploratory thinking in themselves and their team.   Develop strengths-based leadership with clear, practical next steps.   Get unique insight into their own leadership style.   Create positive leadership practices that impact the whole school and community.   Understand and apply the GROW (Goal, Reality, Options, Way Forward) coaching framework.   Finally, High Performing Leaders gives you the starting point for developing your own skills and bringing the rest of your leadership team on this journey with you.   Who can take on High Performing Leaders? The HPL programme is open to all Springboard Trust alumni principals (those who have completed the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme), their senior leaders and middle leaders.  This service runs over one school term and requires committed input from up to 15 key people, including coaches, leadership team members, direct reports and peers. To find out more about High Performing Leaders or to register your interest, contact your Programme Manager or head over to our contact page. 

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