What Traits Does an Effective Leader Need?

Apple on DeskA leader who challenges the status quo must seek innovative ideas for improving the school and take risks despite the threat of failure (Kouzes & Posner, 2012). Challenging the status quo is necessary for positive change (Marzano, 2006). Humility and learning from one’s mistakes are essential characteristics of an effective principal. These traits are especially important when a responsible risk fails. A strong principal positively impacts all aspects of the school.

There are other characteristics that may help the principal be an effective leader:

  • being flexible
  • thinking on one’s feet
  • listening genuinely to others ideas and feelings
  • inspiring others to join the mission
  • exhibiting trustworthiness

What other characteristics do you think are necessary for an effective principal? 

—-Stephanie Scott  http://effectivek12schools.com—-


Kouzes, J. M., and Posner, B. Z. (2012). The leadership challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. Available from http://www.amazon.com/Leadership-Challenge-Extraordinary-Things-Organizations/dp/0470651725/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345057723&sr=1-2&keywords=the+leadership+challenge

Marzano, R. (2006, April). What Works in Schools. Speech presented at School Improvement Conference Michigan Department of Education, Lansing, MI. Retrieved from http://michigan.gov/documents/What_Works_in_Schools_Marzano_cover__handouts_157021_7.pdf

Leadership Styles: Transactional, Transformational, & Servant

Directional sign with Work Life

Leadership greatly impacts the effectiveness of an organization. Some of the best leaders demonstrate flexibility and exhibit different leadership styles based on the context of the situation. Often, leaders assume different leadership styles in their personal and professional lives. Three styles common in any organization include transactional, transformational, and servant leadership.

Transactional Leadership

The transactional leader assumes the role of a manager. Their efforts are centered on organization and production (Pepper, 2010). Furthermore, the focus is not placed on the good of the worker, but the level of organizational effectiveness. The transactional leadership model emphasizes the role of punishment and an exchange of incentives for efforts. The rewards are typically extrinsic. Think of the transactional leader as the typical manager whose main focus is ensuring that every cog is in place.

Transformational Leadership

A transformational leader is one who empowers, inspires, and invites others to join him in committing to a shared vision (Lezotte & Snyder, 2011). The characteristics of a transformational leader include high levels of enthusiasm, celebrating successes of others, and encouraging creativity (Leonard, 2008). The rewards are intrinsic. Think of the transformational leader as a cheerleader. He or she supports you and encourages you to take responsible risks to better yourself and the organization.

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership begins with the desire to serve others and the aspirations to lead (Greenleaf, 2008). In addition, servant leadership involves shared decision-making and helping others to be the best they can be. According to Spears and Lawrence (2002), “Servant leadership is about getting people to a higher level by leading at a higher level” (p. xi). Rather than being served, it focuses on serving others (Ebener & O’ Connell, 2010). Furthermore, the servant leader model requires the leader to work to surpass his interests for the good of the whole organization. Servant leaders act with humility, celebrate the successes of others, and empower others to make decisions for their good and that of the organization (Ebener & O’Connell). A servant leader exhibits the characteristics of (a) listening to others; (b) showing empathy; (c) healing; (d) being aware of others’ needs; (e) building consensus; (f) using foresight; (g) being a positive model; (g) committing to the positive growth of the organization and its members; (h) building a community (Spears, 2004). Think of the servant leader as a coach who is on the sidelines. The servant leader is not in it for the glory; he or she is more concerned about the good of the organization and its people.

Think about the leader in your own building and his or her typical actions. Under which style of leadership does this leader’s characteristics fall? Which type of leader do you think you act most like in your personal and/or professional life?

—-Stephanie Scott http://effectivek12schools.com—-


Ebener, D. & O’Connell, D. (2010). How might servant leadership work? Nonprofit Management & Leadership, 20(3), 315-335. Retrieved from http://www.servantleadershipmodels.com/Nonprofit_Mgt_and_Leadership_article.pdf

Greenleaf, R. (2008). The servant as leader. Westfield, IN: The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.

Leonard, A. (2008). What’s your leadership style? Campus Activities Programming, 41(2), 20-23Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.

Lezotte, L. & Snyder, K. (2011). What effective schools do: Re-envisioning the correlates. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Pepper, K. (2010). Effective principals skillfully balance leadership styles to facilitate student success: A focus for the reauthorization of ESEA. Planning and Changing, 41(1/2), 42-56. Retrieved from http://planningandchanging.illinoisstate.edu/recentarticles/volume41.shtml

Spears, L. & Lawrence M. (2002). Focus on leadership: Servant leadership for the twenty-first century. New York: NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.