The 5 Qualities of Successful Senior Leadership Teams


“Nothing Great was ever achieved alone!”

Dennis Griffin

Senior leadership teams are central to the success of every school. No matter the size, no matter the make-up of the team; it is imperative that every team member not only buys into the school vision, but in addition actively works with others to enable the vision to be fulfilled.
Creating a climate in which this is achieved isn’t always easy.  Quite simply because,

“Organisations are more complex because they are made up of people who come with a range of attitudes and motivations, personal goals and ways of interacting with each other.”

 Louise Stoll, Professor of Education at Bath University

Yet, despite the truth of Stoll’s  statement SLT’s have to find ways to overcome the complexity of differing attitudes, motivations and goals, so that their energies are consistently centred on working together for the common good.
From my own experience working with SLT’s those that are most effective in achieving the above, share these five qualities…

1) Shared purpose

These teams successfully lay aside ego. No team member elevates themselves above another. They are aware of one another’s strengths and areas for development and work successfully with both. The vision is important to all of them, not just the Head. They understand the role that they each play individually and collectively in seeing the vision fulfilled. As a result, a shared understanding of their ‘Why’ means that when challenges arise, they never lose their way.
Their shared sense of purpose ensures that the right decisions are made for the right reasons. They hold themselves and one another accountable for the outcomes of their collective decisions. Blame is absent from their interactions, but praise and encouragement are never in short supply. As a result, they continually fan the flames that keep their collective purpose and passion alive.

2. Learn Together

Successful teams not only work together they learn together. SLT meetings are not only viewed as opportunities to work on the strategic and operational sides of school life, they are also seen as opportunities to reflect, learn and grow. Where this is the case, these teams consider learning at a number of different levels; organisational, team and individual. As a result, they have a much more holistic sense of what it means to be a leader and to work as part of a team.
Consequently, these teams often have a deep sense of feeling in control, even when faced with external directives and other people’s competing priorities. This is because, they have increased their capacity to not only keep things in perspective, but to also see the bigger picture. A picture which has been shaped by their collective learnings and deepening understanding of what it means to lead in their own school context.

3. Psychological & Emotional Safety

In highly successful teams, team members are emotionally and psychologically mature. This doesn’t mean that they never disagree, nor does it mean that they keep their emotions to themselves. Quite the contrary. They have opinions the same as you and I. They have feelings and emotions the same as you and I.
The difference is their meetings have structures and processes that make it safe for individuals to say what they are really thinking and feeling. So, no-one need ever hide behind a fragile veneer of okayness and meetings need never be scuppered because team members don’t have the tools to address the elephant in the room!
All team members have played a part in shaping the team protocols for healthy, open and honest engagement with one another. As a result, psychological and emotional safety preside, conflict is minimised and when it does arise, every team member is well equipped to deal with it effectively.

4. High Levels of Trust

In these teams there are no ‘information quarantines’. The SLT is a safe place to both be oneself and to share confidential information. The ability to share, in a non-judgemental space means that weight of School Leadership is made less heavy to bear. Individuals feel cared for and supported. Trust becomes the glue that holds everyone together. This means that individuals within the team feel able to take risks, knowing that they will be supported no matter the outcome.

5. Celebrate Together

And finally, successful teams celebrate together! They acknowledge team effort and the results of the team’s endeavours. Successful teams understand that celebration can be a constructive way for building resilience and boosting collective esteem. They model good humour, compassion and respect. As a result, not only does it feel good for them to be with one another, it also feels good for others to be led by them!


How can I build a Successful School Leadership Team?


Every senior leadership team ( SLT’s) has the desire to be able to work effectively for the benefit of every staff member and child in their school.

However, as many an SLT team member will testify, working together for the success of everyone is not always a goal that is easily achieved.

That’s why we offer Coaching for School Leadership Teams designed to support you as you build a resilient, collaborative and solution-focused SLT in your school by helping your team to…

– Establish a process for holding meetings in which all team members feel safe, valued, listened to and understood

– Know how to self-manage and have open, constructive and supportive dialogue with one another

– Understand why conflicts arise and how to positively address for the benefit of all

– Achieve coherence around strategy, implementation of policy and systems that support full commitment and accountability from all team members

If you’d like to find out more about our coaching for SLTs and learn how it could support your school, simply follow the link below…

Learn More


One Response

  1. Love the article! I have just left Headship after a successful period leading the Atrium Studio School from scratch. Your article certainly resonates with me as was in the privileged position to build my leadership team and all staff team form the beginning. During this time, I utilised all the lessons that I had learned from refereeing in the FA Premier League and internationally for FIFA, and also from my time in senior leadership in New Zealand.
    I would love to chat more as I look to work with people who share a similar ethos.

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