Instructional Leadership: Are You Ready?

Instructional Leadership: Are You Ready?

North America is currently experiencing a groundswell in the number of people participating in instructional leadership relationships. Why? Are individuals engaging in an unprecedented new relationship paradigm? Or are we as a society now simply becoming more aware of relationships that have always been with us, functioning with the role and responsibilities of  instructional leaders? The honest answer is probably equal parts of both.

Moving into the twenty-first century, contemporary society is definitely engaging in new instructional leadership relationships that have not existed in the past. In the same breath, many relationships that have been with us for a very long historical time (such as that of Master and Apprentice in the Trades) may have not been classically considered a relationship with the role and responsibilities of  instructional leaders; but in the last few decades, have rapidly been recognized as just that. Regardless of which argument, people are beginning to lend credence to the tremendous potential for growth on the part of both the protege and mentor.

The struggle experienced by many today however, is that a large number of people jumping on the mentor-ship bandwagon do so without taking the time to recognize the degree of commitment involved in the role and responsibilities of  instructional leaders. While rewarding,  instructional leadership can involve a great deal of pressure and accountability. Acquainting yourself with the role and responsibilities of  instructional leaders before setting out down this path can go a long way toward minimizing these stresses. As in many areas of life, education is an invaluable tool.

Before picking up the mantle of the role and responsibilities of an instructional leader, take a brief look at some aspects that may be involved involved in a commitment that is nothing to shoulder lightly:


Your protege will be looking up to you and will depend on you to pass on to them how to go about doing things in your field. Therefore, it is important for you to study and revise all of the material that you will be teaching your student before you present the information to them. This will help to ensure that information transferred from teacher to student is of the most contemporary and updated material. From fundamentals to advanced skills, having your ducks in a row before beginning will greatly enhance the learning and teaching experience.

Teaching is a huge responsibility and must be taken seriously. You must be confident that what you are teaching is constructive and helpful to your student. Second only to the Scouting Movement, “Be Prepared” is a motto highly suited to teachers. A further bit of advice for a prospective teacher who is seeking education on the role and responsibilities of  instructional leaders: Choose your student accordingly. The success factor in any instructional leadership relationship rests easily fifty percent upon the student. Seek out an individual that possess similar positive characteristics that you yourself displayed. The very nature of an instructional leadership relationship being one-on-one instruction allows the teacher this luxury. Choose wisely.


Your protege will be entrusting you with their path (which ultimately leads to their future) Such responsibility will require you to guide them confidently and calmly toward toward their desired destination. This is not to say the teacher shoulders all the work; it is also the student’s responsibility to assist in forging their path. If they are unsure about what steps to take next, you are the one they will turn to. It becomes paramount then, that the teacher is aware of their role and responsibilities and are able to be confident in their leadership position. They are then able to direct the student in a healthy manner.

When guiding your subject, you must understand that you are the one they will turn to when they are struggling most. This means that you need to be supportive and considerate. As has been expressed in the past, patience is a virtue as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of knowledge transfer. In the role and responsibilities of an instructional leader, there will be occasions when it will behoove the teacher to not force the issue (whatever the particular issue may be). At the same time, situations will present themselves that require the instructor to “push” their student in order to negotiate certain obstacles that may be holding them back. The hallmark of a gifted teacher is the ability to know the proper time to employ each technique.


You will be offering counsel to your protege, both when you see fit and when requested to do so. Keep in mind that counseling can often simply refer to kind words of affirmation, or a supportive nudge in the right direction. Even if the teacher is not formally trained in counselling and is hesitant to offer advice, a good rule of thumb to remember is that instead of giving advice and telling someone what to do, relate their problems to similar experiences in your life and how you faced the challenge. This allows the student to draw their own conclusions and freely choose the course of action best suited to them. If you provide wise counsel for your protege, then because they value and respect that opinion, they will be more likely to listen and succeed. This counsel can then often act as a very significant support system for your protege. This means that the role and responsibilities of  instructional leaders often function as a surrogate pillar in the foundation of a young person’s life journey, filling in for absent parents, siblings or dearth of role models.


Motivation is one of the most effective tools in the role and responsibilities of  instructional leaders. It allows them to give the student just what is needed to begin heading in the right direction and keep moving that way. Motivation keeps the protege interested and focused on what they are striving for. Witnessing industry and alacrity in the reaction of the student to the instructor’s motivation, in turn feeds the motivation in a positive feedback loop.

Motivation is a significant factor because it also helps in keeping away discouragement and disinterest. These are often two of the most difficult areas to deal with when striving toward a goal. Motivation can often eliminate them both, making for an easier and much more pleasant journey.

The role and responsibilities of  instructional leaders may seem like difficult skills to master, but now you have the resources required to begin the journey. Are you ready to be an instructional leader?

photo credit: Students shadow district personnel for a day of engineering (license)

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