Reading Time: 5 minutes
Share this article.

Dear principal, Elevated Achievement is committed to providing you with resources that support you as an effective school leader.

We believe that being a leader is the only way to successfully run a school focused on elevating student achievement. But not everyone sees the principal’s role in this way. To some people being the principal means being the boss.

What is the difference between being the boss and being a leader? In the simplest terms, a boss manages employees, while a leader inspires them to innovate, think creatively, and strive for perfection.

Leadership and Being the Boss

Based on  research, it is crucial that your staff sees you as a leader. So, think for a minute about how your staff might see you. As the boss—someone who manages their time and work? Or as a leader—someone who inspires and supports them to elevate student achievement?

From an employee’s point of view, here are some differentiators between being seen as the boss or as a leader.

The Boss is in charge of an organization and its employees.

A Leader possesses the ability to inspire and support others to accomplish significant goals.

  • Manages people
  • Leads and supports people
  • Depends on authority
  • Depends on goodwill
  • Drives employees
  • Coaches employees
  • Inspires fear
  • Generates enthusiasm
  • Says, “I”
  • Says, “We”
  • Places blame for the breakdowns
  • Fixes the breakdowns
  • Knows how it is done
  • Shows how it is done
  • Uses people
  • Develops people
  • Takes credit
  • Gives credit
  • Commands
  • Asks
  • Says, “Go”
  • Says, “Let’s go”

So, how do you think your staff sees you? If someone asked, “Who’s that?” pointing to you, what do they say? “That’s the boss.” Or “That’s the leader of the school who supports my work.” Don’t forget that you are in control of how you are viewed by the staff, the teachers, the parents, and the students. This chart is not a checklist, something used to figure out if you are “good” or “bad.” It is a tool for reflection, something that will help you think about the actions of strong leadership. So, which actions do you currently exhibit?

The Power of Instructional Leadership

Obviously, being a leader is directly linked to being an instructional leader. The term leadership has many connotations and the context in which it is used. The same holds true for the term instructional leadership. In their review of research on how leadership influences student learning Leithwood, Seashore Louis, Anderson, and Wahlstrom clearly state,

“Different forms of leadership are described in the [educational] literature using adjectives such as ‘instructional,’ ‘participative,’ ‘democratic,’ ‘transformational,’ ‘moral,’ ‘strategic’ and the like. But these labels primarily capture different stylistic or methodological approaches to accomplishing the same two essential objectives critical to any organization’s effectiveness: helping the organization set a defensible set of directions and influencing members to move in those directions. Leadership is both this simple and this complex.”

To that end, it’s important to state that when we talk about instructional leadership, we are talking about the art of inspiring a group of people toward achieving a common set of goals for learning and academic achievement.

We encourage you to continually reflect on your leadership skills. As a strong leader, you must be both reflective and self-aware. These traits are two of the most important to have if you are hoping to strengthen your leadership skills. You will determine what you want to change, or not. We are here to provide practical solutions on how to develop instructional leadership. You are here to decide the particulars of your own growth.

The power of leadership is not only in the ability to reflect and grow as an individual, but the ability to influence others as well. The research drives home that the power of leadership is in your ability to support others to grow. As Roland S. Barth articulates so well,

“The most important responsibility of every educator is to provide the conditions under which people’s learning curves go off the chart. Whether one is called a principal, a teacher, a professor, a foundation official, or a parent, our most vital work is promoting human learning … and above all our own learning.”

That is your task. That is the skill of instructional leadership.

The Learning Brief

In this article you learned…
  • The differences in being a leader or being the boss and why it matters.
  • How to determine your own style and why it is critical to developing the skill of instructional leadership.
  • Where to find additional support for developing instructional leadership (
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Can you imagine building an environment full of motivated, engaged, and eager students who own their learning?
We can.

Let us show you how

Stay up to date!

Subscribe to The Learnership Review and receive monthly emails so you never miss a thing.