Educational leadership styles: Which one fits you?

Written by Kate Lopaze

If you’re looking to take your career in education to the next level, part of that means understanding what kind of leadership skills you have—and how you’d apply those in your job. Because educators are already a pretty diverse crowd, it should be no surprise that leadership styles can vary pretty widely too. So let’s look at the main types of educational leaders.

The Authoritarian

This sounds severe, but the authoritative leader is the one who is able to set a clear direction or implement a new vision. This means the leader is a decision-maker, often the final say. The authoritative leader is often the cheerleader-in-chief, motivating a team (or multiple teams) toward a single goal. The authoritative leader is a confident, strong voice, and comfortable making decisions. If you feel more comfortable giving orders than taking them taking them, then this might be your style.

Pro: Things get done how you want them done.

Con: Team members may have trouble connecting to this kind of leader, since they’re less engaged in the decision-making process.

The Team Builder

This kind of leader, also known as an affiliative leader, focuses on building, maintaining, and repairing relationships. The affiliative leader’s priority is on harmony and collective productivity. This type of leader typically strives to get input from others and have good relationships with everyone on the team, rather than hand down assignments.

Pro: Team members feel valued and connected.

Con: Poor performance is sometimes ignored in favor of maintaining larger group harmony.

The Politician

This kind of leader, also known as the democratic leadership type, works on consensus. This leader has the final say, but relies on having other stakeholders weigh in as well. The diverse perspectives can foster creativity and innovation, because everyone is able to give input and share their points of view.

Pro: Team members feel more engaged because they have a say in the process.

Con: Decisions may not happen quickly if you’re waiting for mass buy-in.

The Coach

The coaching-focused leader prioritizes team development over immediate achievement. Meeting goals is about the process, and providing feedback and instruction to make sure that members of the team are able to succeed in the project at hand, or on a more long-term basis. It’s also a natural leadership style for many teachers, who are already accustomed to nurturing talent to hit milestones. In this role, the coaching leader often delegates tasks and responsibility to help team members understand and learn in a hands-on way.

Pro: This is a very forward-thinking leadership style, and encourages team members to set and achieve their own goals.

Con: It can be time-consuming to incorporate feedback and ongoing training. Also, if team members are resistant to learning, that can also slow overall progress.

The Visionary

The visionary leader is focused on innovating and improving outcomes. For these leaders, the status quo is less important than setting goals and improving how students learn, how teachers work in the classroom, etc. The visionary leader typically spends a lot of time brainstorming and engaging others in common goals.

Pro: Employees feel empowered to find new ways to accomplish goals.

Con: Sometimes focusing on the big picture can lead to neglect of the everyday, or less interesting tasks at hand.

There is no one-size-fits-all leadership style for an educator, or even a school. So depending on your personality and your goals, it may be that one of these suits you really well—and others not at all. Whatever your leadership style is, it’s important to nurture those qualities and find leadership opportunities that work for you.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.