Educational leaders have a significant impact on student achievement, often more so than the actual teachers in the classroom. That’s why there is a growing need for visionary change agents in education who are capable of driving the organizational and institutional changes necessary to improve student outcomes. If you want to be the catalyst to change that ultimately transforms your school, district, or the entire institution of learning for the better, here are 10 steps to follow to be an effective visionary change agent:
1. Know Your Organization
Before you can recommend or implement changes that improve student outcomes, you must first have a deep understanding of your organization. Whether at the school level or district wide, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your organization will help you drive real change that is local, immediate, and most impactful for students and teachers alike.
2. Survey the Educational Landscape
Visionary change agents can be innovative and spontaneous in their own right, but they also take cues from real-world examples of policies that worked as well as those that didn’t. By surveying the educational landscape, your own vision as to how to improve student outcomes will be sharpened by the successes and failures of other leaders in the field.
3. Ask Tough Questions
Change agents must be willing to ask the questions no one else is asking. For leaders in the educational field, these questions should focus on student outcomes and whether current policies and programs are best for the kids or best for the stakeholders. Asking tough questions is also an effective way to have others share your vision of change.
4. Present Clearly Defined Goals
Having a vision for the future of your organization is one thing, but being able to clearly communicate that vision and the steps required to achieve it is something else. Having clearly defined and achievable goals will help turn your vision into a reality by serving as a roadmap for teachers, principals, administrators, and other policy drivers responsible for instituting your changes in the classroom.
5. Establish a Culture of Change
Organizational change is not always easy, but it can be made easier by establishing a culture that embraces change as opportunity and sees it as positive growth. This starts by embedding readiness to change within the very organizational structures you wish to transform. Innovation and improvement should be rewarded, and leaders should remove as many barriers or hierarchical levels as possible to make it easier for anyone with new ideas to present them.
6. Invite Feedback from Resistors
There will always be people resistant to change, but it’s important for visionary leaders to engage with these resistors rather than suppress them. Having open and honest conversations with teachers, principals, or administrators who don’t agree with your vision will help bring more resistors on board than if you suppressed or ignored their criticisms. A culture of change also encourages feedback and criticism to help foster continuous improvement.
7. Engage with the Community
The changes you are proposing will ultimately affect the students in the classrooms, so it’s important that you share your vision with the community in order to turn parents into advocates. Engaging with the community will also make sure that the real needs of your students are driving the changes you have in mind for your organization.
8. Reach Out to Other Visionary Leaders
Although it may feel like it sometimes, especially if you work in a school or district that is highly resistant to change, you are not the only person trying to change the structures of education for the better. Engage with like-minded local educators as well as leaders at the national and global scale to build your own network of change agents you can turn to for guidance and support.
9. Reflect and Reevaluate
Organizational change is a continuous process. As such, it’s important for educational leaders to reflect on the institutional changes they’ve already accomplished and reevaluate their vision based on the outcomes they’ve seen and the outcomes they still hope to achieve. It’s also important to remember that significant institutional changes don’t exist in a vacuum, nor do successful visionary change agents. As you reflect on your vision and reevaluate your strategy for achieving your goals, make sure you incorporate feedback from resistors as well as those who have championed your vision thus far.
10. Lead by Example
Be the change you want to see in your organization. Immerse yourself in the classroom, be a thought leader, challenge the status quo, show you care about the students—in short, don’t just articulate what change looks like at the educational level, show it.
If you want to affect real change in your organization, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota can help. Our online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership program will help you develop the foundational skills needed to enact change and usher in a new era of educational excellence. For additional information on the M.A. in Educational Leadership degree program, contact an enrollment counselor at 877-308-9954.
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