Climate Controllers: 21 Things Effective School Leaders Do

The importance and significance of a school’s climate is crucial to its health and wellbeing and school leaders play a dynamic role in maintaining it.

A positive climate is what sets the tone for success and effective leaders work diligently at establishing a place where people want to be.

Caring leaders are climate controllers who continually monitor and assess the atmosphere and environmental conditions of their school.

The leaders who make a difference have their finger on the pulse and follow strategies that actively contribute to a happy school climate. They:


  1. Change

To grow and improve, a school must change. Effective leaders are change agents who promote a climate of change by encouraging innovation, collaboration and creativity. They applaud risk-taking and are open to new ideas. They are eager to listen to others’ opinions and options.

  1. Challenge

They believe in grilling the sacred cows that are not working and challenging the status quo. They don’t waste time watering weeds and fertilising dead wood. They have an excitement for new initiatives.

  1. Do

They don’t vegetate, procrastinate or enter into negative talk. They are active, organised and positive. They teach ‘doing’ is important and failure is not fatal.

  1. Find solutions

When it comes to problems, the best leaders spend 5% of their time discussing and 95% searching for solutions. They have a willingness to always look at better way of accomplishing something.

  1. Take responsibility

Effective leaders don’t blame others and point the finger at individuals when things go wrong. They instil a collective responsibility and ensure people support each other within an atmosphere of “we are all in this together.”

  1. Have role models and mentors

Leaders always need help and they tap into the expertise of others. They see every day as a school day and take advantage of any opportunity to learn from a mentor. They have a support structure to help them make the school better. 

  1. Set goals

All effective leaders have a vision, path and a mission. They ride the horse in the direction it is moving and map out a plan for their final destination.

  1. Build emotional safety

Canny leaders build a culture where everyone feels as though they belong and a caring ethos prevails where relationships are developed and nurtured. People feel safe because great leaders bring out the best in them. They let people know how good they are and how much they are valued. Positive leaders believe in their staff and look for gold in everyone.

  1. Spread

Happy leaders have a sense of self-worth, a positive attitude and a belief in success. They have a love for what they do and face each day with zest, enthusiasm and always put their best foot forward. They have a sense of humour and ability to laugh at themselves and spread happiness.

  1. Edit

Caring leaders know that teachers’ plates are filled and running over so they don’t pile more on top. They adjust the climate settings by editing and managing workloads and cut back on meetings to reduce stresses and frustrations.

  1. Feedback

Everyone wants to know how they are doing, if they could be better and if there are suggestions for improvement. Climate controllers tell them and continually feed their staff through positive and constructive feedback so they can feedforward.

  1. Build pride

The best leaders know that positive and caring relationships make a school extraordinary so they work on building an environment of respect, trust, professionalism, collaboration and pride.

  1. Talk

Climate controllers communicate, communicate and communicate. They readjust, monitor, revise and continually report the status of effectiveness.  They have a never-ending pursuit to improve and advance and promote ‘kaizen’ or continual improvement. 

  1. Act

Climate controllers invest in their staff and take time to help them. They recognise the importance of creating a worthy climate for all. 

  1. Draw the line

Effective leaders look after themselves and their staff and remind people of having a life outside of work to rejuvenate and revitalise. They let everyone know that teaching is just a job and they need me-time to themselves and we-time with their significant others to nurture healthy relationships.

  1. Praise

Good schools are everyone’s business. Leaders know that every member of staff contributes to the cultural ambience and climate of the school so their approach is built on a family model of support and community.  They let them know how proud they are, sing their praises and celebrate and reward successes.

  1. Connect

Intelligent leaders connect with the community and have their backing. They make an ongoing commitment to involve, inform and nurture parents and the community through projects, regular communications and positive media so the school is valued and respected.

  1. Feed

Great leaders feed their staff so they grow personally and professionally through continual training and upskilling. Teachers don’t know what they don’t know so leaders help them to learn, grow and improve.

  1. Limit

Effective leaders don’t keep asking for the same information. They know teachers are drowning in paperwork and data and are therefore sensitive to the amount of information they request.

  1. Ask

Effective leaders know that they have to be held accountable and so ask for input from their staff. The most secure leaders provide opportunities for staff to evaluate their effectiveness.

  1. Remove

Smart leaders eliminate obstacles so their staff can get on with the business of teaching. They adopt the performance formula for growth of P = p-I where Performance equals potential, minus the Interference. They look at what problems are holding people back and getting in the way of their progress. 


And finally…

Leaders control the weather system in any organisation and no one likes working under clouds and the threat of rain or gale force winds. 

Leadership climate is a known predictor of staff engagement and empowerment which directly influences the success of a school: happy teachers, happy children. Teachers are much more likely to be engaged working in an emotionally intelligent leadership climate.

When staff are satisfied in their work environment, they feel good about themselves and where they work. Great leaders create a climate of belonging and a hunger for the school.

Author: John Dabell