Year 3 Summer Part 2: Leadership

Why is leadership important?

Fitzgerald and Schutte (2010) have written extensively on transformational leadership and we can easily apply their scholarship of leadership to educational practice because we recognize that:

  • Effective educational intervention requires strong partnerships and collaboration.
  • Leadership skills support positive thinking that promotes innovation and entrepreneurialism.
  • Innovation is required to solve complex health and social challenges.
  • Leaders set organizational culture that enhances engagement of colleagues.

To transform practices in an educational setting, therefore, requires that we are keenly aware of our own individual leadership strengths and skills to communicate effectively with diverse stakeholders to solve complex problems, create compelling and engaging vision, and initiate innovative ideas that empowers change (Fernandez, Noble, Jensen & Steffen, 2014). When we exchange knowledge and challenge and support one another to set and meet high expectations we are exhibiting leadership and better serving the needs of the individuals we serve as clinicians. And what is most exciting is that is what, for the most part, our school teams are motivated to do. Teachers often turn to their education partners to help them build key knowledge and skills to address the challenging needs of students in their classrooms. They look to related service providers to help them navigate the complexity of teaching students with a myriad of needs successfully in their classrooms. Our leadership builds the capacity of teachers to be successful in their roles; our leadership is designed to enhance teachers’ success in roles that increase their knowledge and skills to effectively teach students.

When we assume leadership roles on our teams, in other words, out students’ outcomes improve! And what’s even more exciting, is that leadership can come from anyone on the team, not necessarily, and perhaps with even more value, from someone not in an authoritative position such as the principal. In a research brief published by the Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement we learn that when team members build and exercise their leadership in the educational settings, collaboration and problem solving is enhanced and curricular, instructional and assessment practices improve. This results in greater student learning and achievement! The Teacher Leadership Skills Framework outlines many of the skills we need to be effective leaders in the educational setting (Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, 2018). Take a look at the competencies that are reviewed in the Framework and consider completing an inventory of your own educational leadership skills using the Teacher Leader Self-Assessment.

Fernandez, Noble, Jensen and Steffen (2014) suggest that in addition to individual leadership capacities, organizational and institutional leadership skills are valuable assets as well. Can you think of an organization you have participated in in which organizational leadership was lacking? The authors suggest that organizational leaders:

  • Use systems thinking to strengthen capacity in others
  • Build strategic partnerships to effect change
  • Empower others for successful planning and decision making
  • Assess trends for future development


Imagine a time in your first year of practice where you might employ one of these organizational leadership skills on your educational team. What might that look like?


Proceed to Part 3

4 thoughts on “Year 3 Summer Part 2: Leadership

  1. I think right off the bat it will be beneficial to establish strategic partnerships to effect change with the other professionals (i.e., teachers, therapists, special education directors, principal, etc.) within the school. I want to go into the school year with an open mind and open line of communication. I first plan to write an email/letter introducing myself to everyone within the school district and set the precedent that I have an open door policy. I find that open communication is effective towards building those partnerships. I also plan to reach out to the other professionals with any questions/concerns and ideas I have for the students I [we] serve. Building those trusting and professional relationships is important for the quality of services that will be provided to the students. I know the first couple months will be a transition period, but I look forward to seeing how the year flows.

  2. This is a very interesting time to be entering the profession as COVID-19 is causing us to alter the way we are providing education for students.  Many team members are understandably frustrated, including many parents of our students.  I am anticipating I will have to reimagine the way services are provided.  The immense amount of changes make effective communication with the team even more of a necessity.  As a new member of the team, I can employ organizational leadership skills in a variety of ways.  While I think it will be challenging to work with students (especially whom I have never met in person) remotely, I think it is also a great opportunity to collaborate with parents and build strategic partnerships with families. I think parents may better understand our role/value and it will lead to stronger collaboration of the IEP team and lead to increased carry over across environments. Additionally, because many team members are frustrated and trying to navigate uncharted territory, it will be important to empower others during the planning process.  I know this upcoming school year will require me to be flexible, adaptable, and understanding.  We can empower families and teachers by providing encouragement and supports, but also realize that OT (or other services) may not be the current top priority. 

  3. While all of the organizational leadership skills seem critical to developing as an effective leader the one that jumps out to me is to “empower others for successful planning and decision making.” As Taylor pointed out, covid-19 has created a unique situation in which people are forced to take on roles they are not typically responsible for. I know that I will be able to produce more positive outcomes if I am able to share knowledge, perspective, and encouragement in a way that will give others (parents, children, teachers, other service providers) the ability to confidently plan, make decisions and participate in ways that are most beneficial to them.

  4. Since I will be the only PT in my county, I think that one of the most important professional relationships I will have is with the only OT in my county. Since she is an experienced school-based OT, I know I will be collaborating with her quite frequently this year. I have already exchanged information with her, and we have both discussed our concerns for providing services during this pandemic.

    As Taylor mentioned above, providing services virtually for students I’ve never met will definitely be an interesting learning experience. I hope to build strong relationships with my students’ families in order to provide the best care I can.

    I know that I will have to have strong relationships with everyone on the interprofessional team, including the student, family, teachers, administrators, OTs and SLPs. I am excited/nervous for this upcoming year!

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