5 Tenets of Fostering Team Leadership Skills

Leader — it’s a sought-after title in the workplace, and rightly so. Whether corporate executive, school superintendent or store manager, these roles allow us to stretch ourselves, encourage our colleagues and, hopefully, experience the gratification of helping our team succeed. 

But no matter the industry or field, being a leader is no easy task, especially when juggling multiple demands on our time. To do so effectively, we must have a full suite of competencies, from delegating to making sound, swift decisions. Harvard Business School notes that without these abilities, “It can be difficult to rally [our] employees to work toward common goals and perform at their best.”

So, how can we foster our team leadership skills? As I’ve found during my three-decade career in the education field and involvement in the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators (AAEA), it’s about creating a solid foundation by following five key tenets.

Remember your why. In any role, some days feel more difficult than others, leaving us without the motivation or energy to ensure our team’s forward momentum. Returning to our “why” can help us reset and re-engage. Reminding myself of my priorities — being a servant leader to help students and families — keeps me on track and pushing ahead.

Reframe your mindset. Amid the busyness of tackling our to-do lists, we can begin to operate in a vacuum and fail to recognize outside perspectives. In these moments, putting ourselves in others’ shoes is essential. For me, that’s returning to my roots as a classroom teacher to better think through my team’s needs, such as greater visibility and engagement from their district leaders.

Strengthen your networks. As the saying goes, “Relationships make the world go round.” Along with our daily duties, we should deliberately find ways to connect and build trust with our team members so they feel heard and valued.

Lean on your mentors. When feeling stuck or discouraged, it’s crucial to have someone in our corner who we can ask for objective feedback. Often, I look to my fellow female superintendents or former bosses who are facing or have confronted similar issues. The value of having a go-to, trusted source for professional advice is unmatched. 

Invest in professional development. Training, workshops and industry-focused conferences are capability and confidence boosters. Regardless of where we are in our careers, we should continually utilize available resources and look for opportunities to hone our professional toolkits. I’ve learned that regularly participating in service offerings from organizations like AAEA allows me to keep learning, growing and improving.

The skills we need to support our colleagues or those we serve may change, but the fundamentals of being an effective team leader — built on the five principles above — will always remain.


Dr. Karla Neathery is the superintendent of the Sheridan School District and president of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators, which provides legislative representation, advocacy and professional learning opportunities to 3,300 school leaders across the state as part of its mission to ensure the highest quality public education. 


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