President's Corner

Leadership Teams That Share Credit
 BY KRISTI WILSON/School Administrator, December 2020

ONE OF OUR key responsibilities as superintendents is to develop the school district’s leadership team. Establishing a culture that focuses on both individual and team success is vital, not only for the well-being of the district, but also for the sustainability of every effort we pursue as a district.

Although specific district context plays an important role in how we develop our leadership team, some common considerations can benefit all districts if implemented diligently and maintained with fidelity. Through experience and observation, I have identified three main areas that, with the attention of superintendents, can make a difference in district leadership.


Deciding who deserves credit for student achievement results and other accolades is often the cause of tension among school leaders and, at times, district leadership staff as well.

Superintendents can address this collaborative vs. competitive problem by creating a spirit of “collective success” and a collaborative culture wherein the accomplishments of one are genuinely celebrated by all. How is this culture established?

It begins with promoting approaches that provide an incentive to celebrate all successes. For example, by publicly praising teams for specific accomplishments, superintendents illustrate the importance of this approach.

Next, provide positive reinforcement for those on the district leadership team who embody this approach. Gathering the team together to acknowledge members’ extra effort to motivate and celebrate the accomplishments of their colleagues can be a meaningful way to promote an atmosphere of “collective success.”

Finally, quickly and intentionally thwart efforts by leadership team members to cause dissention around successful results achieved by other individuals or schools.


Differentiation is necessary not just in the classroom but also when developing district leadership team members. Not everyone on the team is at the same place with regard to knowledge and experience. We need to guide members to the next level of development by assessing their prior knowledge as well as their areas of strength and potential points of refinement. 

Using this approach, rather than a one-size-fits-all strategy, helps district leaders strengthen each member of the team so the group as a whole is more effective.

Differentiation related to individual development does not mean forgoing team development. In fact, team development is critical from the perspective that it nurtures relationships and an understanding of how everyone fits together as a group. Ultimately, it is the dual emphasis on both the individual and the team that provides the foundation for district leadership team success.


Our teams likely are made up predominately of Type A personalities who are accustomed to producing positive outcomes on their own. Can they come together collectively to achieve the synergy required to achieve as a group? We may need to train our district leadership team members to be action-oriented if they are going to collaborate to solve problems and make progress as a group.

Building a Foundation

By focusing on these three areas, superintendents can build a foundation for an effective district leadership team whose members collaborate to reach school and district goals and celebrate each other’s successes. Nothing can obstruct positive and deliberate inertia toward results like unhealthy competition, infighting or forgetting the collaborative power of a team.

KRISTI WILSON is AASA president in 2020-21. Twitter: @KwilsonBESD33