Leaders of any kind, whether in the public or private sectors, have to display certain qualities in order to be effective. And with school senior leaders, these qualities are extra important because you are not only leading a team of employees, but hundreds of students too. The attitude at the top trickles down and sets an example for staff and students alike.

While all school leaders will have their own unique traits, here’s some qualities to look out for that are a sure sign of a super senior leader. If you’re planning on moving up the ladder to senior leadership, how many of these characteristics do you see in yourself or your colleagues?



Great leaders have great passion for what they do. When in the presence of a truly effective senior leader, their passion exudes out of them and is infectious. They love education, their school, their staff and pupils and hold pride in what they do.

Emotional Intelligence

Successful senior leaders have emotional intelligence, which means that they are strong communicators and are able to expertly handle interpersonal relationships with an awareness of their own emotions and the emotions of those around them. They are experts at compromise and empathy.


Resilient leaders are able to withstand difficulties and get right back up again when the going gets tough. But more than that, having resilience also means that they are able to take criticism onboard without letting it knock them or result in confrontation. That doesn’t mean storming ahead unscathed by criticism but instead having the strength in character to take criticism on board and to act on it in order to be better.


An effective senior leader is proactive, not reactive. They plan well and make space for potential drawbacks ahead. If you find yourself rushing to complete tasks last minute or having to go back and do things again when things go wrong, you may be a reactive leader and need to work on being more proactive and planning ahead. A reactive leader only adds extra stress to their team who are constantly having to clean up the mess of the poor organisation of management.


Effective leaders are those that you know you can rely on. They have an open door, they are always there and willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved when their team needs them. A reliable senior leader is consistent and will always be there to lend a hand to those who need it. Reliability is especially important in the school environment in which pupils need routines, expectations and reliable adults to look up to.


When leading a team, you need to be creative in order to succeed with an ability to come up with new ideas and initiatives. Furthermore, in the current climate of budget cuts and strict accountability measures, school leaders are having to be ever more creative in order to thrive. A strong senior leader also breeds a creative atmosphere in their workplace, encouraging staff to try new things instead of getting caught up in hidebound routine.


In the same way that a teacher supports all their students, supportive leaders are able to understand the strengths of individual team members and how to support and nurture the team as a whole to succeed. It also means being able to support those below them to become leaders themselves, pulling others up the ladder instead of pulling up the ladder behind them.


Good teachers are often charismatic in order to engage and motivate students and school leaders are no different. They have to be able to motivate staff so that they can thrive in difficult times or stressful periods in the school year. A motivating senior leader captures the attention of a crowded room and makes them feel they are in safe hands.

Calm Under Pressure

An effective senior leader is able to remain at ease when stressful situations arise. They are able to foster a calm atmosphere in times of strain and keep the team rolling forward calmly in the face of stress. Last minute Ofsted inspection? No problem, we’ve got this!


A good senior leader must be positive in order to keep team morale up and drive team motivation. A negative leader depletes the enthusiasm of the team while positivity keeps up the beat. Positivity is especially important in school leaders because the attitude of senior leadership trickles down to the staff and the students together. Set an example as a leader by breeding positivity!


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