Activities for Administrators and School Leaders
for busy school leaders the best way to strengthen leadership
ability is to intentionally exercise simple, on-the-job
below are dozens of self-directed exercises that you can do as
you move through your regular work day.
For best results, keep the following in mind:
each activity with a clear purpose in mind.
aware of how you introduce each activity and,
subsequently, how each is received. Consider
questions like the following… What changes did you see?
How did you feel about each exercise? How did your
reports react? Etc.
these activities with a spirit of experimentation.
Not all will work equally well and some may have to
be adapted to meet your unique needs and situation.
The developmental exercises below are grouped into nine different
Meaningful Work Relationships
Write a thank you note or “job well done” memo everyday
for a week. Be
certain your notes are sincere and specific.
Make note of how recipients react.
Offer at least one sincere compliment a day.
Practice common courtesies: apologies, hallway greetings,
thank you cards, get well messages, sympathy notes, etc.
Increase visibility by maintaining a visibility log.
Use this log to keep track of the percentage of
your workday that you are out of your office and talking
to staff members.
Make a point to ask staff members more about themselves,
not only about work related interests but also about their
Make a list of ten questions about education that interest
you. Then make
a point to ask all ten over the course of a two-week
period. The point is to engage your team members in
personal and meaningful conversation.
Identify the staff members who you have the most trouble
with or who you know the least.
Make a point to engage in a friendly one-on-one
conversation with each of them.
Make a list of the traits that you believe interfere with
your management relationships.
Work to “correct” each one as you interact with
Identify staff members with whom you have your strongest
a list of traits that the relationships have in common.
Work to nurture these traits with others.
Go a full day
listening without interrupting once.
five paper clips in one pocket.
Each time you compliment or meaningfully connect with a
staff member, transfer one paper clip to another pocket.
At the end of the day all the paper clips should have
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Write a “letter to parents” in which you
extol the achievement of your staff.
Be certain to use specifics.
Establish peer coaching partnerships to help
inexperienced or stressed team members.
Arrange open forums in which volunteers
exchange ideas and encouragement in order to support and
motivate one another.
Design and administer a “morale” survey.
Initiate a simple rewards program that
offers prizes or recognition—even if you just draw names
out of a hat. Explain
that the process symbolizes how you appreciate their hard
work. Note that
the prizes can be humorous or donated by team members.
It is the symbolism that counts.
Go a full work week without using attacking
or discouraging language when dealing with your team
Work with a small group to create a “stop
doing list.” These
are procedures, actions, or policies that are outdated,
cumbersome, redundant, or annoying.
Set a few minutes aside each day to reflect
on how things are going professionally.
You may want to ask a few team members to reflect
Make a point to recognize team members who
successfully implemented positive change.
Make a list of school procedures, functions,
and/or services. With
a committee of key players, grade each from A to F.
Then talk about improvements.
Make a point to talk to numerous team
members one-on-one and ask them the following two questions:
What is quality?” and “How do we achieve quality?”
Review your current process of delegating.
Then develop a list of guidelines for the delegation
of tasks. Ask
yourself how you can do it more effectively.
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Give selected individuals short but
pertinent readings on professional strategies.
Ask them later what they thought of the reading.
Meet with individuals and identify personal
goals. Ask them
how you can help them achieve their goals.
Form “new hire” focus groups to discuss
the philosophy of education.
Conduct open forums—no agenda, just open
Don’t forget the easiest strategy of
all—ask team members, “How are things going?”
Drive Positive Work Values
Engage team members in casual conversations
around the question ”What is a values driven school?”
Discuss ethical standards with your team
Develop a matrix that shows the relationship
between your values and your management behavior.
Research managerial ethics.
Report your findings to the staff.
Identify and clarify team norms or rules of
Link professional behavior to workplace
Write down the workplace values that define
your approach to leadership.
Share them with your team members.
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Work with a small group and identify
“trust busters.” Discuss
ways to avoid or eliminate trust busters.
Identify three team members who you trust
the least and list those things that you distrust about
them. Are there
some common threads in all three? What is it that drives you
to react to them cautiously?
Over the next few weeks try at least one strategy to
build a positive connection with each of the identified team
Find a short article on trust and give a
copy to each of your team members.
Ask them to discuss it with you over lunch or before
or after work.
Establish a feedback group in which you
discuss the level of trust on your team.
Identify positive things that you can do to build
If you made a leadership mistake, admit it
and discuss it with your team.
Note how the team reacts.
behavior for yourself.
Set some standards for authentic behavior and hold
yourself accountable to them.
Make a short audio tape in which you affirm
your commitment to building stronger levels of trust.
Listen to this tape periodically for motivation and
Survey your leadership peers to discover
what they do to build trust with their teams.
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Develop a list of things that you can say to
let meeting latecomers know that tardiness is unacceptable.
Complete the following metaphor: “My style
as a meeting facilitator is like
At your next meeting tell the participants
that you are working on one or two meeting facilitation
the meeting ask the group how you did with each.
Ask for suggestions.
Identify three to five adjectives that
define your style as a meeting facilitator.
Then ask selected team members to identify your
strengths and weaknesses as a meeting facilitator.
Any Patterns? Similarities? Surprises?
At your next meeting stop mid way and ask
the participants how the meeting is going.
Ask for suggestions to improve your meeting
Establish an assessment group and identify
ways to keep meetings focused and on track.
Make a list of ways to replace meetings with
other forms of communication.
Create a committee clearing house to
identify, define, and prioritize school-wide issues.
Carry a small notebook to jot down
information, opinions, and ideas that you hear from staff.
Identify a personal mentor or coach who you
can meet with regularly to talk openly about leadership
Establish a feedback group to get insights
into your leadership style and behavior.
As you gather opinions and viewpoints on an
issue, make sure you get a diversity of ideas from diverse
Stop on occasion and identify those things
that you feel are working well and those things that are
List the major issues that you have
confronted over the last two years.
Is there a pattern? Is there a type of issue that
Keep a log of the time it takes you to
handle an issue. Determine
if you are handling issues in a timely and efficient manner.
Hold informal “round tables” to discuss
the future of your school
Keep a professional journal in which you
focus on four aspects of visionary thinking: needs, wants,
desires, and dreams.
Write out the “best case” scenario for
what you want your school to become.
Give it to your staff and ask for responses and
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