Vision and strategy

The work of any team or organization needs to start with a clear sense of what they are trying to accomplish and how they want to behave. Once this clarity is established, people will use it as their lens to interpret information, surprises, experience. They will be able to figure out what and how to do their work.  

— Margaret Wheatley



Interested in how your school is doing with setting the vision and strategy for collective leadership? Use one of the self-assessments in the linked document below.


What do we mean by vision and strategy?

What vision and strategy look like: People with the right skills and expertise are leading not because of position but because their skills are the best suited for the work. All of those leaders are working toward the shared vision of the school using common strategies.

Collective leadership is work toward shared goals. For schools to improve, there needs to be a shared vision and mission in order to create a cohesive approach for school improvement. Strategies must be in place to propel that vision forward. Leadership can certainly occur in a school without a shared vision and strategies, but if 30 different teachers and administrators are leading without any followership or coherence across initiatives, the school will make very little organizational progress.

Shared vision and the associated strategies are not created by one leader with the expectation that others will buy into the vision. Instead, shared vision is developed through the collective expertise of school leaders, both teachers and administrators. Shared vision and strategies drive instructional improvement and are the foundation for continuous school improvement. The collective expertise that drives the shared vision is best developed by creating opportunities for teachers and administrators to work together.

Why are vision and strategy important?

When effectively implemented, vision and strategy for improvement via collective leadership and innovation are clearly defined, communicated, and used to guide work. Ineffective implementation of the vision and strategy condition is likely to result in confusion. This discussion guide is strategically structured to support your team’s efforts to define, communicate, and use your vision and strategy and avoid confusion during implementation of collective leadership (see table below).

It is nearly impossible to hit a target if you do not know where it is. Collectively developing a vision and strategy for why and how collective leadership is going to be implemented provide both the location of the intended target and a plan for how to hit it. Developing the vision and strategy collectively also eliminates the need for buy-in since people own what they help to create. When used effectively, your team’s vision and strategy can serve as the touchstone for everything that happens in your school. Those schools that effectively use their vision and strategy are able to “take the words off the wall” and use them to define all aspects of their school.

For instance, the tagline at one Denver school is “Where everyone is a learner, teacher, and leader,” which is directly aligned to the school’s vision and strategy. At the school, all decisions are filtered through that statement. Staff members, when faced with a decision or design challenge, ask themselves, “How does this support students as they develop not only as learners but also teachers and leaders?” And if the answer is that it does not, they either decide not to do it or redesign whatever is being implemented to align with the vision for what that school does.

Is your team ready to dive into the work of establishing a vision and strategy for collective leadership? Complete the form below to get access to all of the conditions strategy guides.

Eckert, J. (2018). Leading together: Teachers and administrators improving student outcomes. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.


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