Leading enrolment growth

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While there are many factors that affect enrolment, the Head’s leadership is one of the most important.

I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of school leaders. Some of these leaders have excelled, while others have not been able to move their school forward.

My all-time favourite book on leadership is The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner. I used their leadership framework as a basis for my dissertation at Michigan State University when I studied the leadership practice of university presidents.

In their research, Kouzes and Posner discovered five practices of exemplary leaders. I believe that these highlight the role of the Head in leading school growth. The following is a taste of these five practices:

  1. Model the way. “Modelling the way is essentially about earning the right and the respect to lead through direct individual involvement and action. People first follow the person, then the plan” (page 15). The school Head should model the way by focusing on developing relationships with the staff responsible for implementing the plan. Through this close relationship, the Head will be an integral part of the team by ‘rolling up her/his sleeves’ and modelling the way.

  2. Inspire a shared vision. “Their own enthusiasm was catching; it spread from leader to constituents” (page 16). A vision for the future is critical. When a school leader desires enrolment growth, it is critical for this vision to be shared among the staff. The school Head should create the excitement and continue to keep the vision for growth in front of the team.

  3. Challenge the process. “Leaders are pioneers — people who are willing to step out into the unknown. They search for opportunities to innovate, grow and improve” (page 17). Leading the enrolment and marketing effort requires that the school Head be willing to step out and question the process and strategies. By challenging the process and asking tough questions, this will sharpen the team in their push toward implementing the best plan.

  4. Enable others to act. “When leadership is a relationship founded on trust and confidence, people take risks, make changes and keep organisations and movements alive” (page 19). The school Head should empower the staff to drive the enrolment and marketing effort through their dedicated work. This empowerment of the team will enable them to excel.

  5. Encourage the heart. “It’s part of the leader’s job to show appreciation for people’s contributions and to create a culture of celebration” (page 19). The school Head must encourage the staff. The more encouragement that she or he gives, the more motivated the staff will be to work hard to implement the strategies for school growth.

This is a great model for any and every school leader to follow. These exemplary leadership practices should define the role of the school Head.

In addition, the Head is the chief storyteller for your school. As stated by John Jantsch in The Referral Engine, “The leader’s role in the organisation can be that of primary storyteller. The leader creates the story, lives the story, keeps the story alive, and coaches everyone in the organisation to tell the story” (page 78). (By the way, this is a must read for every school marketer!)

Private, independent and faith-based schools need this type of leadership in order to move a school forward in a very competitive market. These practices should be evident in your school’s leadership to successfully grow enrolment.

Is your leadership practice affecting your enrolment?

Dr Rick Newberry is the President of Enrollment Catalyst. Based in the USA, his goal is to provide school leaders with effective marketing and enrolment strategies, as well as staff accountability, direction, and results needed to grow their enrolment. enrollmentcatalyst.com

SMJ Rick Newberry

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