Developing Sustainable Leadership Criteria

Most schools will have some form of a documented performance appraisal process for teachers and, even if not shared transparently, for senior leaders. It is not always the case, though, that schools have defined clear success criteria and opportunities for review and support for middle leaders, and only job descriptions, which can be general and inconsistent, are left to determine whether middle leaders are successful in their roles.

Whilst is it easy enough to gather information about what it means to be a successful leader – in fact, we are often inundated with leadership quotes, articles, and courses on social media platforms – taking the time to consider what success means in a particular context is essential in order to be truly effective. Supporting middle leaders by collaboratively creating success criteria can positively impact student learning by developing skills and understanding in the areas of knowledge, effectiveness, impact, and contributing toward professional culture.

In a school that functions as a true learning community, formative assessment and success criteria are not only shared with students but with teachers and leaders as well.

Especially at the middle leader level, colleagues can work collaboratively to create success criteria that can positively impact student learning by developing knowledge, effectiveness, impact, and contributions toward professional culture. Developing criteria and reflection routines for leadership success that can be sustained over time, adapted, and used at your school will help measure leadership growth and its impact on student learning. This process allows the consideration of individual leadership, team, and overall school growth so that appropriate support can be offered where needed. It allows schools and leaders to know how they are doing and where they might need to make adjustments and/or decisions to continue on the same path. 

Here are some ideas for getting started:


  • Ensure that opportunities exist for teams to discuss learning. (Prioritize learning-focussed agenda items at designated times.)
  • Collect and share leadership tools that improve learning including books, courses, videos, websites, and more. 
  • Create an expertise database to allow teachers to better connect and support each other.
  • Create a glossary of leadership language used in your context.
  • Provide access to quality evidence of stated success criteria.
  • Consider the time scale for development in these areas – one school year is likely too short.
  • Consider who will lead this area of development and whether additional resources may be needed to support its effectiveness.
  • Avoid reducing your learning improvement focus to only the more easily measurable domains.

As with any change to your program, it is essential to consider other implementation factors in your specific context to ensure proper planning, coherence, and favorable reception. Remember to:

  • Develop and announce a communication strategy that ensures clear and regular information sharing.
  • Use data to support the need for this change.
  • Consider establishing a trial group before full implementation.
  • Prepare for and understand potential resistance, and ensure there are channels for staff to give feedback throughout your project.
  • Don’t forget to track progress and celebrate successes!

Feel free to get in touch for a sample Sustainable Leadership Criteria rubric and/or glossary. I’d also be more than happy to have an individual conversation to support you with creating Sustainable Leadership Criteria or another topic in your context if that would be helpful to you. You can connect with me via the contact section of this website or here in a MiniPD session (where a free learner account is required to access).

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