Independent schools and Academic Leaders often pride themselves on spotting talent. They look for it in students, colleagues, potential recruits, and rising leaders - and especially the last. When hunting for leadership talent within your school, it's crucial to look beyond resumes and responsibility, and instead focus on transferable skills.
Many independent schools celebrate and honor teachers who remain committed to teaching throughout their careers, without desiring other roles within the school. These teachers shine when they share their insights and lead professional development, while remaining in the classroom. The skills teachers build in the classroom don’t always translate directly into the desire or the preparation for days spent leading adults.
The role of a department leader or instructional coach, however, should be given to someone who wants to help other adults develop. If you've only seen a teacher in a classroom, it can be tough to imagine how they can lead other professionals. That's why Academic Leaders need to focus on educators' skills and competencies rather than traditional criteria like education or years of experience. (In fact, we offer a course each fall titled Evaluating Department Leaders as Academic Leaders). This approach means you're drawing from a broader and more diverse pool to discover new talent. So what skills should Academic Leaders be looking for when they’re talent-spotting?
In Rebecca Knight’s December 2023 Harvard Business Review article, “8 Essential Qualities of Successful Leaders,” she lays out the skills that leaders need today. Knight says leaders “tend to have intentionally put themselves in situations where they have to learn, adapt, and grow." Look for these 8 skills in your early-career teachers' classrooms to spot your future Academic Leaders.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)