Kyle Palmer

Developing Leaders in a PLC

Being a leader in a PLC comes with tremendous responsibility as well as tremendous opportunity. There is a litany of responsibilities a leader must focus on to build a high-performing school or district. One of those very important responsibilities is develop leadership in the organization. The key is how you develop that leadership.


Adding Followers vs. Growing Leaders   

There is a very important distinction between adding followers and developing other leaders in your school or district. Adding followers will still allow your organization to grow, but it will grow slowly, and sometimes even become stagnant. That is leadership by addition. Followers are unable to grow more leaders. A follower will be happy to go along with the initiatives of the building, but is unable to add their positive influence to others. On the other hand, when other leaders are developed, your organization grows exponentially. Leadership is multiplied. John Maxwell calls this “leader’s math,” and it requires a different mindset to understand how this type of leadership works. Below are several examples of the differences between leaders who add followers and leaders who develop other leaders:


Leaders Who Attract Followers in a PLC… hold “nuts and bolts” meetings

Leaders Who Develop Leaders in a PLC… hold “think and grow” meetings

There are two ways leaders can spend the limited and valuable time they have with their staff. PLC leaders can choose to make sure their followers have the details of what they need to perform their jobs effectively. Or, a PLC leader can spend that valuable time challenging others to reflect and think, connect the dots, reflect upon their current thoughts, and how to add value to others. There are numerous ways to get information to others; there are far fewer ways to intentionally develop leaders.


Leaders Who Attract Followers in a PLC… want others to listen to their ideas

Leaders Who Develop Leaders in a PLC… want to listen to others’ ideas

Ideas are a valuable component of a thriving organization. However, the challenge is developing those ideas and then allowing them to flourish in the optimal setting. Leaders who add followers want their own ideas to rule because they are the smartest person in the room. Followers often do not challenge or push back. In other cultures where idea making is more prevalent, PLC leaders think the smartest person in the room, is the room. Therefore, ideas are not only encouraged but expected from all members of the team.


Leaders Who Attract Followers in a PLC… focus on “I”

Leaders Who Develop Leaders in a PLC… focus on “We”

If you ever want to know what kind of leader you are working for, simply track the number of times they refer to “I” during a meeting they are running versus the number of times they use the word “we” during a meeting. Leaders who attract followers often refer to themselves as the sole important member of the team. Leader like this will refer to their own idea or thought that helped move the organization forward. A PLC leader who develops other leaders use “we” by its very meaning, giving credit to the whole group. This big difference elegantly recognizes the efforts of other leaders in the group and how they have been empowered to help make those decisions.


Leaders Who Attract Followers in a PLC… assign tasks for others to do

Leaders Who Develop Leaders in a PLC… facilitate the creative thinking and problem-solving of others

There is no limit to the work that must be done each and every day to make schools and districts run. There are essentially two types of work to be done. First, there is work that must get done to make sure the schools effectively deploy day-to-day functions. Second, there is work that must get done that moves the school or district forward, growing it substantially. PLC leaders who develop followers give others to-do lists to ensure there are procedures in place for the school or district to continue moving forward. PLC leaders who develop leaders seek the critical thinking and problem-solving need to grow the organization. These leaders do not ask others to pick the low-lying fruit; they ask others to “dream big” and reach for the stars.


Leaders Who Attract Followers in a PLC… hold their power over others

Leaders Who Develop Leaders in a PLC… empower others

Leaders who attract followers in a PLC are also often insecure leaders. Insecure leaders believe that others are out to get them and take their power away. Great leadership can really only be done by those leaders who are secure with themselves. These leaders can be wrong and be OK with that. They can stand up for their beliefs, but, more importantly, they are real and others know that. Insecure leaders will therefore use their position to make sure others know they are not at the same level of position. Secure leaders, or PLC leaders who develop other leaders, love the fact that others can lead and should lead. These same PLC leaders are very comfortable sharing the credit and empowering others.


Leaders Who Attract Followers in a PLC…  builds a compliant culture

Leaders Who Develop Leaders in a PLC… builds a committed culture

We all know the type of culture a leader builds is vey important. Leaders who attract followers in a PLC often build a compliant culture because their followers are unable to grow and impact others. The need for this type of leader to remain the visible leader supersedes their willingness to add value to others. Followers will do what they are supposed to do and nothing more. Followers in this organization will meet the minimum expectation and nothing more. Conversely, PLC leaders who develop other leaders will find their expectations are always far exceeded. Others in this type organization will always do much more than they are expected to because they feel empowered, care a great deal for the success of the organization, and understand the PLC leader cares for their development.


There is a stark difference between adding followers and developing leaders. High-performing PLCs need leadership to be shared and grown to a high level. What type of leader are you going to be?



Maxwell, J. (2007). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.


Jordan Hulet

Wonderful article! Thank you.

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Elizabeth Ferhati

Thank you for your posts! I appreciate your insight on developing true leaders in PLCs because our school has just implemented PLC structure and some teachers are struggling with the true structure or function of what a PLC is.

Thank you!

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