Purpose, responsibilities and success factors of middle and senior leaders

Middle and senior leadership roles

Twenty-first century schooling requires leadership that is widely shared. This means that many teachers will also have leadership responsibilities in their schools. Research shows a positive relationship between organizational change in a school, improved learning outcomes for students, and the involvement in the school of teachers as leaders (Harris, 2008; Leithwood and Mascall, 2008).

Principals delegate and share responsibilities or take a step back at times, which creates opportunities and space for staff to take on middle and senior leadership roles. Principals can use these opportunities strategically to make appointments that will enable the school to respond to changing needs and priorities

New leadership positions usually have a specific area of accountability. They may be permanent or created to fulfil a temporary need. The purpose of middle and senior leaders is to improve outcomes for all students – outcomes that embrace their education, welfare, and development. Depending on the context, the responsibilities of middle and senior leaders may include:

  • leading pedagogical change, which involves acting as a model for effective pedagogical practice;
  • ensuring that teaching staff understand their role in implementing the school’s vision and policies and that they can influence these;
  • providing leadership that is responsive to student identity, language, and culture;
  • working to establish in their school the reciprocal relationships implicit in the Treaty of Waitangi;
  • working with students’ families, whānau, hapū, iwi, and caregivers to share information and solve problems;
  • providing a stable, safe, and orderly school environment through managing systems and administrative practices;
  • managing and appraising teachers and encouraging them to take on leadership roles;
  • mentoring and coaching other leaders;
  • leading and participating in professional development so that it becomes accepted practice in the school;
  • building professional, trusting relationships;
  • resolving conflicts, for example, where there is competition for limited teaching and learning resources;
  • promoting innovation and ensuring that ICT assists, supports, and enhances student learning.

Factors affecting the success of middle and senior leaders

There are a number of factors that influence the success of those in middle and senior leadership roles. These include:

  • leadership and trust that emerges out of expertise first, not position;
  • leaders’ support for and active engagement in planning how vision, policies, and practices are put into effect;
  • a team culture, where the whole leadership team seeks opportunities to collaborate and actively cultivates and develops leadership capability;
  • sound planning and resourcing of middle and senior leadership roles and activities;
  • negotiated job descriptions that balance the management and educational leadership aspects of the role (Cranston, Tromans, and Reugebrink, 2004; Farnham, 2009);
  • opportunities for leaders to engage in professional development and learning;
  • school use of research evidence to inform change and develop practices that will directly or indirectly improve student outcomes.

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