Influence: A Thought Experiment


I am sure you know that teacher who is working on their “Ed Leadership” degree with the hopes of someday becoming a principal, curriculum director, or superintendent. Sometimes, this path is taken out of a desire to move up in a career, rather than to move up in leadership influence.

What if we thought about education leadership in terms of influence rather than status? This thought experiment reveals that teachers just might be in a better position than administrators to positively influence their schools:

  • Good leadership does not require a title.
    You do not have to be the grade level representative, the department chairperson, or the academic support coach to be a leader. You simply need to identify a place for improvement, collectively create a vision for positive change, and then empower your group to act.
  • Good leadership is positive and solution seeking.
    It is easy to get caught up in the teacher’s lounge negative talk. A good teacher leader never engages in this discussion, as they are always thinking about how to improve the situation.
  • Good leadership requires vision.
    A good leader is not a box-checker who completes a list of tasks. A good leader works with their group to develop a vision of where they all want to be, and then helps build the roadmap for how to get there.
  • Good leadership is hard.
    We often see great leadership that appears to be effortless. We think that these leaders are born with certain intuitive leadership skills. The reality is that they have spent countless hours of intentional thoughts and actions to get to that point. Good leadership requires focused and intentional work.
  • Good leadership has a multiplying effect.
    A good leader is empowering the members of their group to become leaders. This strengthens the team and other teams down the road.

Here’s an example: At East Kentwood High School, a colleague and myself recognized the difficult struggles that new teachers encounter in their first years, but also recognized the huge opportunity to facilitate growth. We created a group called the Rising Teacher Leaders, which provides support and resources to help new teachers grow. We listen to the group’s needs and connect them with possible solutions. In modeling good leadership within this group, we are growing future leaders that will multiply our impact.

Teacher leadership can transform classrooms and schools and doesn’t require any special title. Grow your influence as an educator and ultimately your impact will follow.

Luke Wilcox