Leadership for Effective Change

By Carol Riley Communicator May 2015, Volume 38, Issue 9 Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. —Henry Ford

By Carol Riley
May 2015, Volume 38, Issue 9

Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success.

—Henry Ford

Change theory refers to a pathway of steps to advance short- or long-term goals. It’s the process of moving an organization to improve through a complex web of activities. School principals have to take account of all the factors that would influence any changes that are necessary for their school. Some of these factors are moving targets, so creating the conditions in the environment to embrace change takes confidence, skill, and tremendous courage. As a school leader puts into place a quality process for their team to work in new and innovative ways, she must have an unwavering focus on the desired goals and outcomes.


The Wallace Foundation publication, The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning, identifies five key practices that effective principals use to cultivate better teaching and learning in their schools. As these practices are implemented, change will inevitably take place. The continuous learning process that occurs during times of growth and improvement requires not only capacity, but also a deep understanding of moving people forward to that elusive goal. The key practices—when implemented with fidelity and in tandem with each other—provide an environment that has purpose and commitment from those who are responsible. This process is clearly seen in the actions of highly skilled principals.

School Leadership in Action: Principal Practices is a series of videos featuring exemplary principals in varied school settings nationwide, who bring to life and reinforce the five key practices of effective principals:

  1. Shaping a Vision of Academic Success for All Students
  2. Creating a Climate Hospitable to Education
  3. Cultivating Leadership in Others
  4. Improving Instruction
  5. Managing People, Data and Processes to Foster School Improvement

Click on each title to view the individual principals in action. These illustrative, free professional development tools are part of a growing repository for principals and those who support their professional development. They can be used with accompanying support materials or integrated into existing school leadership programs/curriculum. They are appropriate for both formal and informal learning settings and for directed and self-directed learning.

A driver in the ability to make change is for a leader to build capacity in their staffs. It requires energy and ownership of each team member. As Margaret Mead stated, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Carol Riley is NAESP’s Associate Executive Director, Professional Learning and Outreach.

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