Learning to become an instructional leader is a complex, multidimensional task. If principals believe that growth in student learning is the primary goal of schooling, then it is a task worth learning. In today's rapidly changing world that means becoming a leader of leaders by learning and working with teachers, students, and parents to improve instructional quality. Goal setting and problem solving become site-based, collective collaborative activities. The leadership of the principal is pivotal in ensuring that the process is informed of all school issues, especially those that relate to student instruction.
There are three major areas where learning is required if a principal is to become an instructional leader: (1) a knowledge base, (2) task understandings, and (3) appropriate skills. The knowledge base includes the research on effective schools and teaching, on instructional administration, and familiarity with the processes of change. Also, one should understand educational philosophies and beliefs and, ultimately, be able to determine the strengths and weaknesses of one's own philosophy. Instructional leadership tasks relate to the knowledge base and are varied. They include supervision and evaluation of instruction, staff development activities, curriculum development knowledge and activities, group development knowledge and activities, action research, development of a positive school climate, and the creation of links between school and community.
To carry out these tasks, the principal must possess critical interpersonal, time management, and technical skills. Interpersonal skills include those of communication, motivation, decision making, problem solving, and conflict management. Time management skills include ways to approach short- and long-term goal setting, including its related planning and assessment. Technical skills include instructional observation (to provide feedback to teachers) and research and evaluation for needed projects.
If a principal possesses this background, he or she will likely become an effective leader of leaders-sharing, facilitating, and guiding decisions about instructional improvement for the betterment of children's education. Instructional improvement is an important goal, a goal worth seeking, and a goal, when implemented, that allows both students and teachers to control their own destiny in making a more meaningful learning environment.