School superintendents are the leaders of any school district, tasked with setting the tone for everyone and coordinating all the different facets of a district's activities. They're constantly looking for ways to improve the district for the benefit of everyone. With so many different roles and responsibilities, good working relationships are essential for school superintendents to succeed at their jobs.
These relationships come in different forms at all different levels. Superintendents must foster strong relationships with everyone in a school community, including the parents of students, school board members and everyone in between. As the School Superintendents Association (AASA) suggests, "if leadership is anything, it is about relationships." With so many involved district members in many different roles — teacher, parent, student or principal — superintendents need to excel at fostering dynamic, meaningful relationships. Relational leadership teaches best practices and strategies for building those connections.
Graduate programs such as the online Educational Specialist – Superintendent from Northwest Missouri State University (Northwest) provide educators with a thorough understanding of the philosophy behind relationship leadership in an academic setting and the necessary tools to develop into a strong relational leaders.
Here is a look at some core skills and competencies that are hallmarks of successful relational leaders among school superintendents:
Knows How to Build Connections
The most fundamental aspect of relational leadership are the connections themselves. Effective leaders must create constructive relationships across the board, which requires a strong degree of interpersonal savvy, noted as a key competency for superintendents by the AASA.
Building those skills takes practice. Superintendents need to be able to mend and maintain relationships as well as build them. Relationship building is about showing respect and compassion for people regardless of cultural, religious, gender, socioeconomic or racial status.
Includes Community Members in Meaningful Ways
Good relational leaders work hard to include as many members of the school community as they can in order to create a comprehensive system of support from students. ThoughtCo. explains that this includes not only the parents of students but the business community and other local groups as well. This helps create a positive perception of the school among residents and helps students feel more comfortable in their setting.
These relationships can also prove to be critically important regarding local legislative issues. Good working relationships with influential community members can help the schools during any decision-making process.
Manages Change and Conflict Effectively
Relationships are not static. Superintendents with good relational leadership abilities can navigate the fluid nature of interpersonal relationships without creating unnecessary strife for themselves or others. During inevitable times of change, they're able to effectively manage concerns and adjust their managerial style in order to ease the transition for employees.
In situations of conflict or discomfort, effective superintendents can stay focused and finish accomplishing tasks without "creating unnecessary adversarial relationships," as the AASA puts it. This is because they understand the complexities and nuances involved in every decision.
Receives Feedback and Makes Adjustments
Strong relational leaders are willing or able to recognize their own limits as well. That starts with delegating tasks and not taking on too much responsibility themselves — trusting their employees to fulfill their obligations.
They should also be able to receive feedback constructively and act accordingly. This can mean information from direct reports, superiors, counterparts or anyone else who works with them directly. Leaders should create an environment where co-workers feel comfortable sharing feedback with them, formally or informally. This helps build trust but also helps superintendents make meaningful improvements at their job.
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