Turnaround schools are identified as underperforming schools that are in need of improvement. Being part of a turnaround program can feel a little daunting, but with the right leadership and supporting staff, the team can implement changes that close the student achievement gap.
One major reason for turnaround school success is strong transformational leadership from principals on campus. But what determines an effective leader from an ineffective one? Let’s take a look at the qualities that make for a strong turnaround leader, as specified in Public Impact’s cross-sector research.
A major characteristic of a successful turnaround principal is their ability to focus on task-oriented actions that lead to measurable results. Their drive to achieve challenging goals despite their setbacks is crucial in reaching a high standard of performance.
The transformational leader’s planning for the future helps them identify potential problems and ways to combat them. As part of the implementation plan, the principal should also set clear expectations for staff and hold them accountable. This ensures that everyone understands the goal and the steps needed to reach it.
Develop your leadership skills with the Turnaround Leader 360 Feedback Assessment tool.
Finally, a results-driven leader shows initiative and perseverance in executing the plan.
Another characteristic of an effective turnaround leader is being able to motivate and influence others to get results. A principal knows that they cannot bring about change on their campus alone and that it takes a network of people to achieve a goal. They need to be authoritative leaders who work with and through others on their team.
In addition, they place an emphasis on developing others. They leverage relationships to increase the short-term and long-term effectiveness of their staff. A turnaround leader makes sure that they are equipping others for the task at hand and building them up for the future.
To be effective at turning around a campus, a principal must think critically and attack issues with a problem-solving mentality. As part of the problem-solving process, they should analyze relevant data, make clear plans to attack the problem, and make sure that classroom activities line up with the school’s overall learning goals.
In addition, it’s crucial that the turnaround leader uses analytical and conceptual thinking to simplify complex problems. By recognizing cause and effect and patterns among seemingly unrelated things, the principal can come up with new solutions to issues that may have plagued the school in the past.
Finally, an important characteristic for a turnaround leader is showing confidence to lead. This may be one of the more difficult qualities to consistently show, but an outward display of confidence by staying focused, committed, and self-assured can go a long way in leading staff.
Transformational leaders know that the work they do is important, but not easy, so they remain resolved despite setbacks and personal/professional attacks.
All four characteristics were adapted from PublicImpact.com; Copyright Public Impact.
How to Develop Turnaround Leadership Skills
Now that we’ve shared the characteristics of an effective turnaround leader, let’s discuss how you can further develop these skills.
Start by identifying what your strengths and areas of growth could be through self-assessment and by gaining feedback from your colleagues. If you don’t know where you currently are, it is difficult to pinpoint how you’re growing.
One way to do this is through the Turnaround Leader 360 Feedback Assessment. This mobile-ready, online survey collects anonymous feedback from peers, your supervisor, and staff. It gives insight into your research-based turnaround leader actions and turnaround leader competencies.
Once you have insight into your leadership actions and competencies, use that information to craft personalized development goals. Then, work backward to identify action steps on how to meet those goals.
Your willingness to continue to develop as an effective turnaround leader will make all the difference on your campus.