Activity 9: Building Leadership Capacity

Activity Guide

Leadership Assessment: Building Leadership Capacity by Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses

What Kind of a Leader Are You? A 21st Century 360° Self Assessment.

Effective leadership behaviors are necessary to maintain a culture of collaborative leadership and to establish a process for successful school change. The following 21st Century School Leadership Skills Assessment instrument identifies current leadership standards needed to lead an effective school learning community. Schools that show significant improvement in student outcomes attribute improved and distributed leadership as one of the reasons for the improvement. Leadership from administrators, teachers, parents, and others in the community is essential in order to reach school goals. This instrument will evaluate and confirm leadership strengths and weaknesses and offer improvement suggestions.

Group Activity I: Building Capacity

  • Think about a person you know whose leadership skills you admire. This person can have any position—teacher, principal, clerical worker—it doesn’t matter. What traits or behaviors does the person exhibit that make you appreciate his or her leadership skills?
  • List three or more of those traits. In groups of four or more, compare the traits you’ve identified with the ones listed by others at your table. How many commonalities do you find? Come to agreement on five or six traits that you think are most important.
  • Debrief the conversation by asking each group to read its list and record the leadership characteristics on chart paper. Indicate (by checks, hash marks, or some other notation) when traits or behaviors are listed by more than one group.

Group Activity II: Increasing Capacity

Research shows that if leadership is to improve, leaders must increase capacity in three areas: knowledge of effective practices, skills, and attitudes. Begin with several of the prompts provided and facilitate a discussion around the following:

  • Knowledge. What is your knowledge of effective middle level and high school practices? Include learning styles, differentiated instruction, developmental appropriateness, and so on. How and where do we develop additional knowledge?
  • Skills. What can you do? What skills are necessary to effectively lead a school toward continuous improvement? How and where do we develop skills?
  • Attitudes. Another description for attitudes is will and the disposition to do what is right. What do you know about your attitudes? How do you interact with people with different styles than yours? How and where do we develop or alter our attitudes?

Refer to the previously developed list and categorize the leadership traits as knowledge, skills, or attitudes.

Extend and Apply

The 21st Century School Administrator Skills Self-Assessment is an instrument that will assist you in determining your areas of skill strength. Research on executive development supports the idea that individuals improve by building on their skill strengths. Effective development is contingent on an accurate diagnosis. To build on your strengths and capacity as a leader, you must diagnose your strengths and establish your professional development needs.

Research that is based on decades of work from the NASSP assessment center program has identified 10 skills that encompass the bulk of what school leadership entails. The 10 skill dimensions contained in this instrument reflect areas in which school leaders have the greatest successes and the greatest failures. The items listed under each category are known as key behaviors and define the critical components of practice for that skill.

  • Take the time to read the definition of each skill and reflect on your current practice of the skill. Next, read each of the key behaviors, reflect on your practice of that behavior, and rate yourself by circling the number that best depicts your practice. After rating all of the key behaviors in a skill category, calculate the skill quotient and enter the quotient at the bottom of the grid.
  • Enter the skill quotient for each skill area in the appropriate box. Analyze that data to begin to get a sense of your skill strengths.
  • To confirm or challenge your own perceptions, distribute the 21st Century School Administrator Skills Observer-Assessment to up to eight colleagues, peers, subordinates, and superordinates to gather perceptive data about your skill strengths from others. The combination of self and observer ratings can provide you with useful data to help you reflect on your leadership skills.

Note: Participant performances in the following areas are most often the weakest: Setting Instructional Direction, Developing Others, and Written Communications.