What do teachers bring to leadership?

by Gordon A. Donaldson Jr.


This article focuses on relationships and the development of teacher leaders. It moves away from the concentration on ‘official leadership’ structures within a school, to look at the ways in which effective teachers contribute to the development of a professional culture that influences the practice of others who work with them.

It has some suggestions for ways in which principals can make the most of these people’s contribution to the improvement of students’ outcomes. Principals need to identify and support the networks that such teachers establish. They need to show respect for the ability that teacher leaders have and adjust their own initiatives to complement them. This could mean shifting resources and time to such teachers to encourage the innovations that they bring to the school.

The article is short, easy to read, and it will stimulate discussion and the development of teacher-led initiatives.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might guide you in your reading of this article:

  • “The leadership litmus test is, Are the relationships in this school mobilizing people to improve the learning of all students? If that test comes up positive, then we can ask, Who’s contributing to that leadership – to strong working relationships, to a robust commitment to good purposes, and to relentless improvement of practice?” How does your school rate on the litmus test, and how are you contributing to the development of effective teacher leaders within the school?
  • What new strategies could you introduce to ensure that your teacher leaders receive the support, recognition, time, and resources they need to continue to make the contribution you want so that learning and social outcomes for students are improved?


Donaldson, G. A., Jr. (September 2007). “What do teachers bring to leadership?”. Educational Leadership vol. 65, no. 1.

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