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Distributing leadership across your team

by Sarah Tierney

There’s an old proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Great schools know this and behind every great school, you’ll find a great team, where individual strengths are leveraged to create a diverse, dynamic force. 

How can you form a great team at your school? Start by talking to the people in your building about their strengths, and what motivates and inspires them when it comes to engaging in this work. When you understand the wide swath of talent and interest that exists within your building, you can connect the dots between individuals’ strengths and the school’s needs. This allows you to create a well-balanced and effective team. It’s no surprise that taking an assets-based approach sets leadership teams up for success: people like doing what they do well.    

Once you develop a vision and chart a roadmap for achieving that vision, you’ll want to delegate responsibilities to leaders within your organization. Then, you and your leaders need to align on support: What  does each leader need to be successful in their role? Engaging in open dialogue with that leader, or a group of leaders with similar responsibilities, allows you to set clear expectations and identify opportunities for continued development. For example, a teacher leader might need to practice their peer facilitation skills in order to lead grade-level planning meetings; an instructional coach might need to practice using an observation guide ahead of observing and giving feedback to teachers.

Click below to see a video of the principal at the James F. Condon Elementary in Boston, MA, explain how he engages teacher leaders in the work of the Instructional Leadership Team, Common Planning time and Professional Development.


We’ve spent ten years learning from thousands of leaders and teachers across the country about the things that make a big difference for schools. Now, we want to give you the opportunity to do the same. We’ve organized these Lessons From the Field in a new section of our website by our main areas of focus—everything from harnessing the power of formative assessments to fostering a culture of adult learning.

Sarah is a director of new partnerships and former coach at ANet. She’s leading the Lessons From the Field project.

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