Develop and Embrace Teacher Leadership Capacity in Your School

This blog was contributed by Annette Jones, Ed.S., Assistant Director for School Leadership at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) in Arlington, VA.

What is a contemporary school community?

A contemporary school community is focused on shared leadership.  Each and every person in a school is a leader. What an important concept to teach and model to our new teachers, experienced teachers and even our students in our Catholic schools! In reviewing the qualities and skills of effective teacher leaders and the role of the administrator, one can grasp how high leadership capacity can occur in our Catholic schools.

What are the qualities and skills of effective teacher leaders?

The effective teacher leader understands the needs of the students in the school and often assumes the role of teacher advocate by offering suggestions to improve instruction, curriculum and the school culture (Nappi, 2014; Henderson, 2001). These teacher leaders are agents of change! Specifically, teacher leaders think beyond their daily work and effectively communicate their opinions as contributors and risk-takers (Nappi, 2014). Teacher leaders’ intrinsic drive and motivation propel their knowledge of curriculum and development, interpersonal skills, change processes, and group process skills to affect change in their schools (Henderson, 2001). Over time, the role of a teacher leader can inspire his or her personal transition to a formal leadership role, such as a principal or curriculum director (Nappi, 2014).

What does high leadership capacity look like?

Leadership capacity is defined as the spectrum of involvement in leadership activities (Lambert, 2002). Depending on each teacher’s leadership qualities and skills, he or she will participate at various levels in the school community. As an administrator, the key is to provide numerous opportunities for leadership so that all teacher leaders will shine. Based on research (Wilhelm, 2013; Lambert, 2002; Conley, 1999), a school that embraces a high leadership capacity engages in the following leadership practices:

  • Engages in high level thinking and questioning which results in collaborative efforts, creativity and new ideas.
  • Engages in conversations about curriculum, instruction and best practices across grade levels.
  • Uses inquiry practices—talk, examine, strategize, and take action steps.
  • Ensures that the instructional practices are linked to the school’s vision.
  • Listens attentively, remains open to change, are adaptable, and builds relationships with all stakeholders.
  • Creates shared leadership, which leads to ownership among all staff members.
  • Embraces a collaborative community, such as mentoring, reflective practice or professional learning communities

Reflection: How will teacher leadership be developed and embraced in your school?

“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born—that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true.  Leaders are made rather than born.” ~Warren Bennis (Shaw, 2015).


Conley, S. & Muncey, D. (1999). Teachers talk about teaming and leadership in their work. Theory into Practice, 46-55.

Henderson, M. & Barron, B. (2001). Leadership challenges for classroom teachers. 62-63.

Lambert, L. (2002). A Framework for Shared Leadership. Educational Leadership, 37-40.

Nappi, J. (2014). The teacher leader: Improving schools by building social capital through shared leadership. The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 29-34. Wilhelm, T. (2013). How Principals Cultivate Shared Leadership. Educational Leadership, 62-66.