Cultivating Teacher Leaders

Jan 7, 2017 by

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Here are suggestions for school principals to engage great teachers toward becoming educational leaders.

The development of teacher leaders is an important and delicate role of a building principal. This requires a principal to seek and identify the various strengths of potential leaders while providing trust and support for their development in the absence of micromanagement.

Utilize Various Strengths

Effective leaders have an understanding that they cannot single-handedly lead every aspect of a school for it to run productively. Principals must have the ability to identify and foster the various strengths of their teachers. Engaging teacher leadership by encouraging teachers to develop those strengths to benefit other teachers and students within a school beyond their own practice is necessary. Often teachers become labeled based on the content area they teach and end up overlooked for leadership opportunities within the school. It is critical that building leaders develop meaningful relationships with faculty members to allow them to express or share their talents and abilities beyond teaching a specific content area. Knowing the hobbies, interests and talents of teachers can open the door to a plethora of opportunity for staff or student development. Most people love to share or offer guidance in areas they have an expertise or special interests. Relationship building is as important in principal- to- teacher connections as is it is teacher-to- student. Knowing how teachers can impact the school culture or best practice instruction within a school is essential to developing teacher leadership. Some teachers find themselves craving to do and learn more within their profession and due to intellectual curiosity and development seek out learning or growth opportunities. See this article in which Danielson (2007) explains that some teachers cannot remain stagnant and have that “leadership itch”. In which she gives some practical ways to nurture that spirit in any school.

Trust and Support

Once a principal has a strong understanding of staff and various areas for leadership, it is important that teachers know that they are trusted and supported when they are put in a leadership role. The development of teacher leaders can create a sensitive environment among a staff if the culture is not based on positive intentions. Teachers that become leaders are in essence taking risks in front of their peers not to mention their superior. The general demeanor of many teachers is not to appear as a braggart or know-it-all in front of their co-workers. Teacher leadership can cause some backlash within a staff that has failed to build a trusting culture. Principals must be cognizant of developing multiple teacher leader opportunities to avoid the appearance of favoring one or two staff members. To learn more about developing trusting work relationships, see this article.

Avoid Micromanagement

A leader that is willing to give power away often gains more power. Although that statement may seem contradictory, there is validity to offering confidence and reliance in the abilities of others. A building leader that can honestly share leadership with the appropriate people based on their strengths will develop a strong cohesive unit. Principals need to be intentional by only offering leadership opportunities in areas in which they are comfortable with providing guidance and willing to NOT micromanage. This sometimes leads to an outcome that is different than what the administrator originally envisioned. In these cases, principals should be prepared to accept alternate outcomes. See this article that goes in depth into how leaders delegate power.

Please share in the comments below, how are teacher leaders developed in your district?

Keywords: Trust, School Culture, Leadership, Management, Teacher Leader, Educational Leadership


Arnold, H. (2014). The Best Leaders Gain Power by Giving it Away. The Leadership Lab. Retrieved from:

Danielson, C. (2007). The Many Faces of Leadership. ASCD. Retrieved from:

Zakrzewski, V. (2015). How to Build Trust in Schools. Greater Good; Science of a Meaningful Life. Retrieved from:

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