Strategy guide:
Supportive administration

A few notes before getting started

Your team’s structure
This document is intended to be used by teams working to design and implement collective leadership. It is imperative that the team model collective leadership during the design and implementation process. We suggest forming a leadership team of educators to work through the big questions and important tasks below. The team should be comprised of educators in various roles with diverse perspectives. The group must be transparent and regularly consider ways to scale collective leadership beyond the leadership team and include an increasing number of people in the process. 

The framework’s structure
The framework is divided into three parts: Understanding why, Designing how, and Implementing the plan. Each part has two areas of focus: “Big questions” and “Important tasks.” Answering the “Big questions” will involve intense study and open discussion. We recommend that you or your team come to decision points on each big question before moving to “Important tasks.” You can download these resources by clicking on the button below each part of the strategy framework. Scroll further to access additional background resources and research to support your work.

Resources and guides
The “Big questions” and “Important tasks” include valuable resources or guides. We have annotated these resources and guides to save you time selecting the best information for your context. Remember, these resources are intended as a starting point. Part of the process will be adaptation to meet your local needs, context, and goals.

Strategy Guide

1. Understanding your team’s why


Administrative support can make or break any change efforts in a school or district. Administrative support is so important that it is the gatekeeper to no fewer than three other conditions (vision and strategy, capacity and resources, and enabling work structures) and plays a key role in the other three conditions (vision and strategy, shared influence, and orientation to improve).[link to each of these sections] As your team moves toward a more collectively led model, it is crucial that you determine the current level of visible and formal support and then develop a plan for how to strengthen the support that already exists.


Goal: Establish a theory of action

What do you need to learn from the staff at the school about the visible and formal supports needed to implement collective leadership? What questions do you have about how visible and formal supports for collective leadership look?, How will answers to these questions help you create a plan for how administration can be supportive?


Big questions
  • Think of a time when you felt well supported in your work.
    • What formal and informal structures were in place?
    • What freedoms and flexibilities were you given?
    • What limitations were in place?
    • What was done to create a safe space to try new things and learn from “failure”?
    • To what degree does the current administration at your school align with what was described in a through d above?
  • Frequently, administration and teacher perceptions of the level of supportiveness may not be aligned with each other. How will your team go about checking administrator and teacher perceptions of supportiveness? If working in a context other than a single school, how will your team go about checking perceptions of supportiveness of the involved parties? 
  • For your context, how would visible and formal supportive administration for collective leadership look, sound, and feel? What might administrators do or not do that signals visible and formal support for collective leadership?
  • How might strengthening administrative support help your efforts to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion?
  • What is your theory of action for how your team can create or strengthen visible and formal administrative support for collective leadership?

Important Tasks

Do an Internet search for images of traditional vs. collaborative leadership. What do you notice? How do these images reflect your current reality of school leadership? How do these images reflect your ideal perception of collective leadership?

Reflect on the strengths and challenges related to supportive administration that were identified in your team’s initial self- assessment at the beginning of this guide. Discuss ways that your team might help to amplify the strengths and address the challenges identified in the self assessment.

Consider ways that teachers can help administrators be more supportive. Ideas include willingness to design and be part of solutions to challenges that come from implementing collective leadership; helping with budget prioritization; and willingness to take responsibility for results when afforded the opportunity to design solutions.

Create a vision for how visible and supportive administration might look and assess how well aligned your school is to the vision. From that vision determine what the biggest challenge or barrier is to developing or strengthening administrative support. Be sure to focus on challenges and barriers that are within your realm of control.

Discuss why that barrier exists. Brainstorm ideas for how your team might address that barrier. Select one approach to addressing the barrier. Your team will use this to create a theory of action about how addressing that barrier will impact the school.

Create your team’s theory of action about how to move forward from where you are to where you would like to be relative to supportive administration.



Connect and collaborate
Teams frequently struggle with developing a theory of action. Remember to articulate your goal and identify the problem of practice before developing the theory of action.

Need help crafting a theory of action?


2. Designing your team’s how


Are you ready to create a plan for how your team will strengthen the condition of supportive administration for collective leadership? Remember that having supportive administration will help your team avoid inaction.


Goal: Prepare to lead action

Are you ready to create a plan for how your team will strengthen visible and formal administrator support for collective leadership? Remember that having visible and formal support from administration will help your team avoid inaction.

What will you take on first? Who should be involved? What is the timeline?  How will you measure success?


Big Questions
  • What does the information your team collected and your theory of action about an ideal state of supportive administration tell your team about the best next step toward increasing administrator support for collective leadership? What one thing can your team test to strengthen administrator support for collective leadership?
  • How might your team be explicit and transparent about the shifts that are being made to create a more supportive administration?
  • How will the team support administrators as they become vulnerable, relinquish some control, and work toward increasing their support of collective leadership?
  • What is your timeline for this first effort?
  • How will your team know when you have made progress?

Important Tasks

Use the discussion questions from this guide to inform how your team about what could be tested that might increase visible and formal administration support of collective leadership.

Complete the Purpose Map to set the vision, identify the people who should be involved, and create the initial action plan for testing your team’s idea. For ideas about how to design and implement a pilot, check out the structure and resources in this micro-credential or contact CTQ.

Complete and use an action timeline tool like the one below to clearly articulate what will get done by whom and how the team will know that you have been successful.

Is your team interested in support for using these tools? Do you need hard copies?




3. Implementing your team’s plan


Now that the team has articulated the why and how for the supportive administration, it is time to implement your team’s plan. 

What does your team need to do to implement and learn from the plan?

The implementation phase of the work is about much more than carrying out the components of your team’s plan. In order to ascertain the effectiveness of the plan, data must be collected for evaluation. It’s helpful to remind yourself of your original goals as you prepare to gather the feedback needed.


Goal: Launch your team’s test, gather data, and study the results

Once the test is underway, gather the data needed to answer your burning questions. Analyze the data and results of your initiative. Decide whether your team wants to revisit supportive administration or move on to another condition.


Big Questions
  • How will your team create and maintain a safe environment for those involved to provide honest feedback?
  • What feedback is needed from those involved in this effort? How will your team know when you’re making progress?
  • How will that feedback be used to make adjustments along the way?



Important Tasks

Implement the plan for how your school will strengthen visible and formal administrator support for collective leadership. 

Collect data from participants about progress made relative to increasing administrator support for collective leadership.

Create a process for how your team will respond to the data/feedback provided.



Want assistance measuring the impact of your team’s efforts?



CTQ’s tools

Understanding your team’s why
1. Establishing a Theory of Action

Designing your team’s how
2. Purpose map
3. Action timeline

Implementing your team’s plan
5. Impact assessment