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Coaching Teachers To Be Leaders

How Do I Know I'm
Ready to Share Leadership?


It is not unusual for principals to be concerned about sharing leadership with teachers. Principals know that the implications of a "community of leaders" are broad and deep, and the effects are particularly evident for teachers and principals.

Few teachers and principals have formally been prepared to share leadership. In fact, teacher leadership requires a personal transformation that may give one pause and make him or her question: How do I know I'm ready to share leadership? That question can only be considered with a deep understanding of the concept of teacher leadership.


A universal definition of teacher leadership is non-existent because teachers lead within the unique context of their schools. However, teacher leadership has certain tenets that give it structure and purpose. Following are some basic principles of teacher leadership.

  • Leadership is an organizational trait that belongs to everyone. Leadership is not embodied in one or two individuals who hold formal positions.
  • Teacher leadership is a context-specific process that is defined by all members of the school.
  • Teacher leadership processes are collaborative and democratic.
  • Teacher leadership is enacted in the service of student learning and school improvement efforts.
  • Leaders meaningfully connect teaching, learning, and leading.
  • Leaders are interdependent.
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When carefully examined, the tenets of teacher leadership suggest a variety of personal and organizational changes ranging from changes in relationships, structures, and processes to changes in personal responsibility and professional development. The changes can be daunting. To get a handle on those changes, and to determine readiness to share leadership, you might want to refer to the informal assessment below.


Below is an informal, personal assessment that can provide insight into one's readiness to embed teacher leadership in a school. The indicators address personal considerations for the principal including values, commitments, and knowledge.

The principal is prepared to share the leadership values of

  • collective achievement.
  • individual and collective responsibility.
  • collaboration.
  • democratic, inclusive processes for working.
  • personal and professional growth for all.
  • recognizing and celebrating the strengths and talents of teachers.

The principal is committed to

  • establishing structures that allow for collaboration (for example, School Leadership Teams).
  • removing barriers that impede teachers from leading (for example, a lack of time to lead).
  • establishing informal and formal communication links for information sharing.
  • establishing job-embedded professional development structures (for example, study groups, action research projects, and coaching).
  • establishing shared decision-making processes.
  • developing equal, collaborative relationships with teachers.
  • collecting data on the effectiveness of leadership performance.

The principal is knowledgeable about

  • teacher leadership theory and practice.
  • adult learning theory.
  • leadership development.
  • collaborative processes.
  • emotional intelligence.


The indicators that determine readiness to share leadership may appear to be a tall order, but a lot of principals will see that they are not far from the mark. To jumpstart progress toward creating a community of leaders, consider the following tips:

Identify strength areas. Capitalize on what is going well and make it better by leading with focus and intention. Begin conversations about teacher leadership with staff to help identify what is working. Identify areas for improvement. Select one indicator that needs work, and create a plan to develop that area. The first order of business might be to read up on the topic to become aware of important issues. Next, consider hiring a leadership coach to support further personal growth and leadership development. Use data to determine organizational needs. What do the data show about student learning at your school? What collaborative structures can be put in place to improve student learning? Is a School Leadership Team needed to work on school improvement issues? Will a study group help to further learning in the area of reading?

Embedding teacher leadership structures and processes in a school is no easy task. Principals are right to be thoughtful as they make the decision to move forward in sharing leadership. Possessing certain values, commitments, and understandings can be an indication that principals are ready to share leadership.

Read more of Ellen Cortez-Ford's nine-part Coaching Teachers To Be Leaders series.

Article by Evelyn Cortez-Ford
Education World®
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