Being Leaders versus Managers in Education

In reading a short article on the differences between leaders and managers, it made me think that the story is not so different in education. Principal leaders versus principal managers or even teacher leaders versus teacher managers . In my opinion the difference lies in engagement, purpose, individualization, and passion/enthusiasm.

So here is a summary of the list of how leaders are different than managers:

Leaders are:
1. Visionary – principals know where they need to support every teacher so that every teacher knows where they are taking every student;
2. Inspirational – principals build expectations for teachers and students;
3. Purposeful – principals know what to use to move forward whether that may be instructional strategies or professional development and coaching support;
4. Innovative – principals keep up with latest research and evidenced-based practices and how implementation can occur based on the teacher and student population in your school and classrooms;
5. Long-range thinkers – principals focus on where teachers need to grow for capacity building and sustainability; focus on where we want our students to be when they leave us for their next journey versus focus on the results of one test or one number;
6. Risk takers – principals try out new strategies and practices; the status quo is not enough to support the learners we have in front of us today;
7. Passionate/Enthusiastic – principals instill a feeling that you can move mountains!!!
8. Focused on individuals and their growth – principals invest on all of the above for each teacher; not only do you make a happy employee that will stay long-term, but they will model this for their students – happy people don’t leave! (of course unless they have to move!)

Managers focus on:
1. Maximizing efficiency – although needed, do our students get what they need? This is what happens when we take money away from successful (level 1) schools and ask them to get the same results with less;
2. Delegating authority – as principals you are the instructional leaders and as teachers you are the giver and facilitator of knowledge aren’t you?
3. Maintaining order – is it about classroom management or is it about academic and social engagement and learning? Teachers and students who are happy, work hard – really hard!

4. Supporting existing structures – some of the structures may be good and you should keep, but do you have the same teachers and students you had 1, 5, 10 years ago? We have been sitting students in rows for how long? Yes, way too long, thinking outside the box is KEY!
5. Avoiding risk – so, is it ok for your teachers and students to feel like failure? Do you want them to continue to have low expectations because you are not willing to grow and try innovative strategies – the world doesn’t sit still and neither should our schools or classrooms; is it ok to have the excuse of poverty, race, etc. rather than ACT NOW!
6. Short-term thinking and solutions – this is the manager that is solely focused on the state testing results;
7. Focused on the bottom line – public education is not about saving money, it is about getting students ready to be the future (college and career ready)!
8. Objective – not all teachers are made the same, not all your students come with the same skills, its about fairness, “fairness” that is defined by what each individual needs to move forward, not the “fairness” that means everyone gets the same thing because otherwise someone might say something…
9. Attention to detail – stop micromanaging teachers or students! That doesn’t increase productivity or engagement. Trust that your hiring practices and the rest of the skills you have as a leader (described above) will pay off;
10. Egotistical – (this one I added) it is not about you and how important you are, it is about each and every student you have and will encounter in your professional career;

Although their is merit on all of these leading descriptors, or at minimum a combination, I can’t help but think that the leadership list will get every teacher and every students moving and help you be a true success!

Can we also substitute here Principals for District leaders– my gut feeling says yes!

Original article came from the following site:


Claudia Rinaldi View All →

Professor Claudia Rinaldi is the Chair of the Education Program at Lasell University. Her areas of research are the implementation of the Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) framework in urban settings with English learners, teacher education in bilingual special education, and diversifying the teacher pipeline. Claudia has authored peer-reviewed publications and a book for educators called Practical Ways to Engage All Struggling Readers. She lead and developed a graduate certificate program in Teaching Bilingual Students with Disabilities for general, ESL and special education teachers geared towards applying research-informed practices to the questions and processes of identifying whether it is a language difference or a learning disability. Claudia developed a college mentoring program called Pathways to Teacher Diversity for districts and teacher education programs to partner in identifying and supporting underrepresented high school students interested in teaching careers to successfully access and persist in college. She serves in various boards including the National Center for Learning Disabilities and serves as an expert for and the National Center for Intensive Interventions.

Professor Claudia Rinaldi believes that it is critical to prepare teacher leaders who may serve as advocates and allies and who will respond to the belief that all students can learn and succeed beyond barriers like culture, language, disability poverty, and marginalization in our country and globally.

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