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How to drive business strategies in educational leadership

1 August 2019

Education is not a business, but there are many tools and strategies that can be borrowed from the business world for effective educational leadership.

While maintaining a focus on ensuring successful educational outcomes, school leaders can develop business strategies that support this most important KPI. By harnessing the skills of leadership they’ll be able to implement their strategy with the support of students, teachers, parents and the wider community.

What is educational leadership?

A widely accepted definition of leadership is that it is the process of influencing, motivating and encouraging others to contribute to the effectiveness and success of an organisation. In an educational context, leadership usually sits with the principal and works on two levels. As the administrative head of the school, the principal works on a macro level to lead teachers and staff in supporting the learning of students. As the educational head of the school, the principal works on a micro-level and is concerned with the personal development of each student.

At both a macro and a micro level, educational leaders need a high level of emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. Also known as EQ, emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise, understand and manage our own emotions, while recognising, understanding and influencing the emotions of others. It’s a quality that helps us manage tight deadlines, rapid change, challenging relationships and lack of resources – factors that many educators experience and overcome in the classroom on a regular basis.

Educational leaders with a high level of EQ are better able to manage the one thing that is constant in schools – change. Whether it’s shifting to NAPLAN assessments online, then rescheduling and redoing the high stakes assessment because of technical problems, or re-allocating budgets when funding or community relationships are altered. Emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills play a great role in managing change personally and at an organisational level.

Drive business strategy in education

How to drive business strategies in education leadership

The priority of every educational leader is to deliver successful learning outcomes for all students. One of the key drivers in that success is an effective business strategy that is unique to the school.

A business strategy is important to ensure the most effective use of all available resources.

In the marketplace, a business strategy sets out how a company will compete against others in its field on dimensions such as product features, pricing, branding and distribution channels. The major goal of a business strategy for companies is usually to make the most money.

In schools, the goal is quite different – to provide the best educational outcome for each individual student. However, like companies, every school has a finite amount of resources with which to achieve their goal. While private schools are funded differently to public schools, it can be difficult for schools to have secure, consistent funding regardless of the sector. A business strategy is essential for converting limited resources into effective learning outcomes.

A functional business strategy can also assist educational leaders in managing strategic and operational roles. Strategic planning for schools is a process that was borrowed from the business world in the 1980s. It has evolved into something quite separate from the marketplace that better reflects educational expectations. Instead of delivering finished plans to senior executives or boards, educational leaders are more likely to collaborate with councils, advisory boards, parents and the community during the preparation of a strategic plan. This helps to get all parties invested in and bring them along as the plan is executed.

The operational side of business strategy works best when educational leaders put the right people in the right roles.

Recruitment and management of administrative and teaching staff work better with EQ and an appropriate leadership style. For example, servant leadership doesn’t view leadership as a position of power, but as an opportunity to help employees through coaching, stewardship and facilitation. Servant leaders create environments where all staff can do great work and help achieve better outcomes for students.

Effective educational leadership

There are a number of things that high performing leaders do to achieve effective educational leadership. These include:

  • Professional development of all staff
    As the head of an educational institution, effective educational leaders embody and encourage continuing education and professional development of all staff. Taking another idea from the business world, educational leaders can apply a sharing leadership style – empowering staff to lead each other. When Rolls Royce embraced sharing leadership and professional development, they increased employee engagement, lifted profits and reduced errors. In an educational context, professional development and empowerment of school teams are likely to improve educational outcomes for students.
  • Self-evaluation
    Contemporary educational leadership relies on self-evaluation, which in turn demands higher emotional intelligence. The ability to recognise, understand and manage our own emotions enables us to realistically reflect on our own abilities and shortcomings. From there it’s simply a matter of leading by example and embarking on professional development.
  • Demonstrate inclusivity
    Effective educational leaders are able to straddle both administrative management and educational management. In addition to developing a business strategy, they are concerned with the personal development of each pupil. Former ABC boss Mark Scott entered the workforce as a teacher and immediately recognised the impact of education on the lives of young people. He says if he could advise his younger self, he would emphasise the “commitment to the individual young person, to help them engage with learning – that is where the magic happens”.
  • Cultivate partnerships with parents, business and community
    Schools do not exist in isolation of the neighbourhoods and communities where they reside. Libby Lyons is the director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and she learned how to manage stakeholders as a school teacher in the 1980s. She quickly developed skills in managing relationships with students, parents, the school board and the wider community. Effective educational leadership cultivates partnerships with parents, businesses and community as an integral part of their business strategy.

How to become an effective educational leader

Just like EQ, leadership is an essential skill that can be learned. SCU’s Master of Education is the ideal professional development of effective educational leaders. During 16 months of part-time, 100% online study, this MEd provides skills in contemporary educational leadership, leading professional learning and self-evaluation. It also develops specialist proficiency in accounting and human resource management for effective business strategies.

Find out more about learning these skills and more by studying a Master of Education with SCU Online.