Excerpted from Leading Every Day: Actions for Effective Leadership, 3rd Edition (2013), by Joyce Kaser, Susan Mundry, Katherine E. Stiles, and Susan Loucks-Horsley, published by Corwin.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.
— Isaac Newton

Current leaders can learn so much from the leaders that have come before them. We all benefit from knowing what has worked for other leaders and getting insight into the question, “If you can only use a few leadership practices, which ones are likely to have the greatest results?”

For example, what leaders do in schools can have a significant impact (positive or negative) on student learning. In a meta-analysis of 35 years of research on school leadership, Marzano, Waters, and McNulty (2005) identified 21 principal leadership practices that enhance student achievement. They are many of the actions we discuss throughout this book for leaders to use in general.

Savvy school leaders actively seek to use these 21 approaches.

1. Affirmation — Recognize and celebrate school accomplishments.

2. Change Agent — Consciously challenge the status quo and consider new and better ways of doing things.

3. Contingent Rewards — Recognize and reward individual accomplishments.

4. Communication — Establish effective means for communication with and between administrators, teachers, and students.

5. Culture — Fostering shared beliefs and sense of community and cooperation.

6. Discipline — Protect instructional time and teachers from interruptions and external distractions.

7. Flexibility — Adapt behavior to fit with specific situations.

8. Focus — Establish clear goals and keep attention focused on the goals.

9. Ideals/Beliefs — Possess, share, and model well-defined beliefs about teaching and learning.

10. Input — Involve teachers in the design and implementation of decisions and policies.

11. Intellectual Stimulation — Ensure that school staff are aware of and are discussing current research and best practices.

12. Involvement in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment — Be actively involved in helping teachers with instructional issues.

13. Knowledge of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment — Possess extensive knowledge about instructional practices.

14. Monitoring/Evaluating — Continually monitor the effectiveness of the school’s practices and be aware of their impact.

15. Optimizer — Inspire others to accomplish and implement challenging innovations.

16. Order — Establish routines, structures, rules, and procedures for teachers and students.

17. Outreach — Ensure compliance with district and state mandates and be an advocate with the larger community

18. Relationships — Be informed about personal needs of teachers and events in their lives.

19. Resources — Ensure that teachers have the necessary materials, equipment, and professional learning opportunities.

20. Situational Awareness — Pay attention to the current and potential issues that can interfere with teaching and learning.

21. Visibility — Engage in frequent contact with teachers and students and the larger community (Marzano, Waters, & McNulty, 2005, pp. 41–61).


These are the effective principal leadership actions shown to best influence student learning. To what extent have you developed the capacity to use them? For those of you who are or who work with principals and school leaders, what are some ways you can increase the use of these practices that are tied to student achievement?

What gets in the way of using these research-based practices in schools?

Review the list and select three you think could have a significant impact on your own leadership. What are they? What will you need to do to learn to use them? What is your plan for making them a part of your leadership repertoire?


Leading Every Day: Actions for Effective Leadership, 3rd Edition is a classic, best-selling leadership resource that provides the information needed to build trust, spark innovation, and learn what it really takes to support a community of learners and leaders. Learn more.