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  • Sherry St. Clair

Leading Versus Managing Instructional Growth

Updated: Apr 27


For a school to move towards becoming a true learning organization, school instructional leaders must focus on leading, and not simply managing, instructional growth. Undoubtedly part of leading instruction growth is managing the work during the process. Leaders can manage and managers can lead. However when trying to create a culture of continuous growth, it is critical to reflect on the amount of time spent managing versus leading. Here are a few differences to consider:


1) Leaders inspire people while managers direct tasks.


Leaders inspire people by showing they truly care for them. They listen to the ideas of those they lead, have honest and respectful conversations with them, laugh with them, and care enough about them to always be honest. Managers of instructional growth focus more time on the management of people to complete the tasks of the work.


2) Leaders share a positive vision while managers share procedures.


A leader helps all stakeholders see the potential for instructional growth that they have yet to uncover on their own. They display genuine passion and concern as they convey the vision, helping others imagine how growth can occur. A manager is focused on meeting a goal and taking whatever necessary steps to meet that goal.


3) Leaders understand the power of imagination while managers focus mainly on concrete data.


A leader understands the importance of creating an environment where people are growing towards each other, relying on each other for professional growth. These leaders nurture environments where educators are willing to share their gifts with other educators. They work to remove barriers for risk-taking, which allows innovative lessons and projects to take place within a school, and they share the success of these successful lessons with others. Managers are focused mainly on interpreting and distributing concrete data to track instructional growth.


4) Leaders communicate and connect while managers focus on disseminating information.


A leader understands the importance of continuously investing time and energy to communicate and connect with all stakeholders during instructional growth. They value time spent brainstorming ideas with others. They remain teachable, open to suggestions, and asking for and accepting help when needed. Managers focus more time on sending out information regarding instruction. They understand the importance of sharing information with others.


5) Leaders understand the importance of learning from those outside of the organization while managers are mainly focused on how to reach goals within the school.


Leaders know they must constantly reach outside of their school to help inside of their school. They have an awareness of both the career and college readiness skills students will need in the future and work to celebrate a culture where educators cultivate such skills. Leaders spend time developing relationships with business and college leaders to benefit the students and educators they serve. Managers are mainly focused on tasks within the walls of the school. They spend a great deal of time on ensuring teachers understand what students need to be successful in their current grade.


6) Leaders are accountable to all stakeholders and managers are accountable to a team.


Leaders understand each decision made can impact future learning opportunities for students, therefore potentially impacting the future of children. They carefully consider what is best for the entire organization and not just a specific group of people. It is a heavy weight and one that requires intentional focus, energy and reflection. Managers are dedicated to the members of their team, ensuring they have what they need to successfully reach their goals.


There are significant differences between leading and managing instruction inside a school. Both are needed at times. However, if schools truly want to become a learning organization, it is imperative that the majority of their time is spent on leading in order to empower and motivate a sustainable systems that will impact instructional growth for years to come.


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