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The term ‘leadership’ can call to mind a range of different things, depending on the types of leaders you have been exposed to in the past. If you cast your mind back over your time at school as a student and your years of teaching, you may be able to identify a range of school administrator leadership styles. Some of these were more effective than others, and there are likely to be some leadership models you hope to emulate and others you hope to avoid. There is always something to be gained from the past, but preparing students for the future requires forward-thinking, 21st Century leaders.

Whether you’re a current or aspiring principal or head of school, vice or deputy principal, team leader or department head, another member of school leadership teams, or an emerging leader still exploring school leadership jobs that are right for you, you have a responsibility to understand the art of school leadership in the 21st Century.


Strategic school building leadership is important because education in the 21st century is a new frontier, and 21st century learners are a new breed. Many of the students going through schools since 2015 are from a whole new generation: Generation Alpha. These children were born from 2010 and beyond, and have grown up in a different world from older generations. They have never lived in a world without smartphones, drones, tablet computing, apps, and 3D television. Like Generation Z, they are extremely comfortable with technology, having grown up using it: many of them were given smartphones or tablets to play with before they could even walk.

This unprecedented access to technology means our students have more information available to them than we could have dreamed of, even a couple of decades ago. They can teach themselves almost anything they want to know using the resources available to them. They are also unaware of the borders that used to strictly contain our experience of the world. Small children can communicate with people all around the world at the touch of a button. They increasingly have friends in numerous countries, and grow up expecting that international travel will be a common part of their life.

As educators, we are tasked with helping these capable, intelligent children prepare for challenges we can’t fully foresee. That requires a whole new kind of leadership schools haven’t required in the past.


21st Century school leaders enthusiastically face the challenging task of preparing young minds for the future, and they think strategically about the goals and systems that will support this task.

There are a number of different traits, skills, mindsets, and habits that define 21st Century leaders.

My new team at AISPP. Thought Leaders, critical and creative thinkers, collaborators and co-creators of learning. They rock!


Personal qualities like curiosity, persistence, resilience, flexibility, responsibility and hard work are as important as ever for leaders. Whatever changes come, these school principal leadership qualities are always the key to success. Remember, also, that nobody is born with all the qualities of an effective school leader fully realised. Part of being a leader is having the will to work on personal growth and improving yourself constantly.

Other qualities are increasingly important for leaders: creativity, entrepreneurship, innovation, constant learning and teamwork are all crucial for today’s leaders.


The way you think can change your life and your school. It might sound like a platitude, but it’s not just ‘woo’. A positive mindset makes you confident and encourages you to take risks when needed and to think outside the box. To begin with, are you even thinking about yourself as a leader? Too often, people forget to think about the school principal as leader. You should be truly nurturing yourself as a leader, not getting bogged down in administration and the small details.

Read about developing a Growth Mindset instead of a Fixed Mindset, and start to look at whether you are thinking in a way that promotes growth or that will lead to failure. Nothing will undermine success in your career and in your school like a pattern of unhealthy self-talk.

In addition to a positive Growth Mindset, you should also cultivate a global perspective, and avoid the temptation to think small. Approaching everything with a view to sustainability, wellbeing and the big picture, and you’ll help create a culture that encourages students to do the same. Leading and managing change in schools is much less overwhelming with these big touchstones remaining constant.


The key skills for a leader in 2018 include teamwork, high EQ, and focus. These things are crucial for managing yourself, and managing others. EQ involves self awareness and social awareness, an understanding of people, and good relationship management. This allows you to understand and be responsive to your own needs and the needs of people around you. It fosters communication and collaboration, which is the path to unlocking collective genius.

Focus is a fundamental skill for everybody in the information age, but especially for busy people in demanding roles. This includes focus in the moment – being able to stop checking your emails and immerse yourself in deep work – as well as focus on a broader scale – knowing what are the key values and goals, personally and for your school, and keeping them central.

 Building leadership capacity in schools around the world. Participants at the ‘School Leadership for 21st Century’ 2-day workshop at NIST International School, Bangkok.


Effective leaders work with those around them, making a habit of seeking constructive feedback and reflecting on how things can be improved. They recognise the importance of collaboration to unlocking collective genius, but they also know how to set boundaries. If you’re a school leader, you know how precious your time is: guard it as such! Don’t waste time on meetings that could be emails, tasks better suited to somebody else’s skill set, and things that don’t contribute to either your personal goals or the school’s goals.

Build healthy habits that create a framework to help you perform at your best. From getting enough sleep to carving out uninterrupted time with your family, these non-work habits support your work. Look for things that aren’t working in your life, and trial new ways of solving the problem. If your solution works, make it a habit so you can stop giving it so much time and attention.


Building leadership capacity in schools should never be limited to training principals and heads: an intelligent and committed team who are on the same page is invaluable. It can be overwhelming to know where to begin developing that. Often formal school leadership training is assumed to be the answer, in the form of professional development days, one-off school leadership programs, and school leadership conferences. While a school leadership conference or some thought out school leadership courses can be incredibly useful, they can only be truly effective in the context of an ongoing commitment to change. A school leadership program should help you establish strategies and tools that you can use over time to drive change, not simply inspire you in a way that ends along with the event.

Whatever your school leadership framework, educational leadership training will help make your school a trailblazer, and help make yours a school for global leaders of the future. Whether you’re leaders of a new school or an established school, whether you’re part of international school leadership or local independent school leadership, committing to establishing solid leadership in an ongoing manner can make you a thought leader school, with others wondering how you did it.

If you’re looking for education leadership courses to get your school leadership team on the right path, check out my workshop, ‘Leadership for the 21st Century’. It offers personalised leadership development for your team, and assists you in developing strategies and systems for the future. I also offer personal leadership coaching to principals. Leading coaching in schools can assist principals and other leaders in reaching their full potential. Take control of your career and the future of your school now, and reap the benefits.


Why not sign up for my innovative online school leadership course? You can take it anywhere and at anytime. It has received rave reviews from school leaders all around the world and you will learn how to lead 21st Century Schools using creativity, innovation and change. Actually, I’ve decided to reduce it drastically to give you the incentive to achieve your leadership goals in your own time.

Check it out here.

If you have any questions contact me at maxine@thinkstrategic.com.au I would love to help you be your absolute best!

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