Dealing With an Ineffective Team Leader
In Leaders of Learning, Richard DuFour and Robert J. Marzano point out that selecting and training teacher team leaders is one of the most important tasks that a principal must perform in order to lead a dynamic PLC process at his or her school. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to have a thriving PLC without effective teacher leaders. As I have worked with numerous schools and districts, a question that comes up frequently toward the end of the school year is, “What do I do if one of my team leaders is ineffective?”
When principals tell me that one of their team leaders is ineffective, I suggest that they start by asking themselves a few questions:
- Have I been clear about the expectations for team leaders and how they should lead their teams in the PLC process at our school?
- Have we provided team leaders with frequent job-embedded professional development on critical PLC content knowledge (essential outcomes, formative assessments, SMART goals, data analysis, etc.)?
- Have we provided team leaders with ongoing job-embedded professional development on the leadership skills they need to be successful (coaching strategies, conferencing techniques, facilitation skills, etc.)?
- Have I personally supported this team leader with coaching and guidance?
If the answer to these questions is “no,” then the principal should take some responsibility and look at strategies for clarifying expectations and providing professional development and personal support. Being a team leader is a challenging job that requires different skills than being a teacher, and principals should provide supports to help team leaders be successful. I believe that principals should go the extra mile to support their teacher leaders.
However, if the answer to these questions is “yes,” and there are still team leaders who are not leading their teams effectively, then the principal needs to ask, “Is this a problem that involves the beliefs of the team leader?”
When the problem is clearly that the team leader doesn’t believe in the PLC process, principals should look to make a change. The team has little chance of success if the team leader is not supporting PLC efforts at the team level. The principal should schedule an individual conference and engage in a candid conversation with the team leader to review the expectations, discuss the feedback that has been provided over the course of the school year, and explain why there needs to be a change. While this is a difficult conversation to have, principals need to have the courage to address ineffective performance from a team leader and make a change when necessary. Failure to confront ineffective leadership at the team level undermines the PLC process and sends the message that avoiding conflict is more important than ensuring dynamic leadership at the team level. Making a needed change at the team leader level can give a team a fresh chance for success in the coming school year.
DuFour, R., & Marzano, R. (2011). Leaders of learning: How district, school, and classroom leaders improve student achievement. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.