15 Keys to Reaching Leadership Potential
Reviewed by Laura Von Staden
In their latest book on school leadership, Brad Johnson and Julie Sessions address some of the issues that new school leaders, whether they are teacher leaders or principals, face in their new roles.
The authors indicate that in many places there are not good training programs, and where there are, many of them focus more on the administrative duties than on developing leadership skills. They also note that new leaders are often hired for their expertise in an area and not their leadership experience but are expected to hit the ground leading without any training or mentoring.
What’s in the book
The book features an introduction, chapters on the 15 keys, and an epilogue. Each chapter (approximately 8 pages each) begins with an introduction of the topic/skill/trait and what it means, followed by what the experts say, ideas to try, and keys to remember.
Topics covered include knowing your leadership style, developing your strengths, finding your voice, wisdom, communication, resilience, responses in crisis, influencing school culture and more.
The 15 keys that Johnson and Sessions provide are very interrelated and many times the content of the chapters overlap. For example, being self-aware, knowing your strengths and building on them, reflection, communication, vision and forward thinking are noted under many of the keys.
Insights from leaders
The authors have interviewed 31 leaders in a variety of fields and share insights from the interviews in each of the chapters, including the last chapter which is composed of the responses from 14 of these leaders to the question: “If you could go back in time and give a younger ‘you’ one piece of advice, what would it be and why?” (P. 137). This is probably my favorite chapter of the book.
Essential guiding questions
Throughout the chapters the authors provide a few additional external resources on some of the topics, but more useful are the large number of guiding and reflective questions they recommend to help new leaders assess where they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how to plan next steps. This goes hand in hand with their emphasis on the importance of knowing your strengths, reflecting and being forward thinking.
While this book seems to be written more to school administrators – a good amount of it refers to planning and implementing in areas and at levels where teacher leaders rarely have much say – it does provide some good insights that can be helpful to anyone taking on an education leadership position for the first time, including teacher leaders in curriculum and coaching roles.
Dr. Laura Von Staden is a Special Education middle school teacher in Tampa, Florida. She serves on numerous committees both at her school and within her district and works closely with the local university where she is a Professional Practice Partner and a master mentor. Dr. Von Staden also facilitates both online and face-to-face professional development for her school district.