Instructional leadership refers to the administrative duties required by those responsible for leading educational institutions. These managerial tasks commonly fall to the principal or lead administrator and comprise all actions that he or she undertakes personally or delegates to others to promote growth in student learning. In short, the instructional leader creates a student-centered school environment.
The National Association of Elementary School Principals cites the primary function of instructional leadership as leading learning communities. Within this concept, the shift in education has gone from teaching to learning, with some even going so far as to coin the term "learning leader" in reference to an instructional administrator.

Within a system of instructional leadership, the administrator encourages educational achievement by making the quality of instruction the top priority of the institution. As such, the role differs from that of a traditional school administrator in a number of crucial ways. Chief among them is the act of transforming the role of administrator from someone who spends the majority of their time dealing with administrative duties to one who becomes the primary learner within the organization.

In this capacity, the instructional leader is better able to strive for excellence in education by working with teachers, parents and even the community as a whole to redefine educational objectives and set school-wide or district-wide goals for improvement. Additional responsibilities in this role require the instructional administrator to provide the necessary resources for learning to students as well as continuing education opportunities for teachers and staff, thereby ensuring that the institution remains up to date on the latest approaches and techniques for learning. Acting as an instructional resource, the administrator may:
  • Establish clear goals for students, teachers and staff
  • Allocate resources
  • Manage the curriculum to ensure it coincides with goals
  • Monitor lesson plans to make sure they conform to the established guidelines
  • Evaluate teachers based on the new parameters

Reasons for Adopting Instructional Leadership

Those who train to become instructional leaders must exhibit a clear sense of direction for their school, prioritizing the issues that directly impact the output of students. In addition, an instructional leader continuously monitors the classroom to leverage the strengths of teachers while reducing their weaknesses. But more essential than any other factor, these principals lead by example, serving as a visible presence and committed to achieving the highest success in teaching and learning.

As in many other avenues of life, those who exhibit the most enthusiasm are the ones who inspire the most people. And this contagious enthusiasm is at the core of instructional leadership.

Viewed as a collaborative learning environment that readily employs the ideas and creativity present in teachers and support staff, the process of learning within a system of instructional leadership is no longer confined solely to the classroom. Instead, it becomes the objective of all educators.

The rise of instructional leadership indicates a significant departure from the tradition of an authoritarian administrator. Instead, the process of learning is viewed as a pursuit that should take place from the top-down. In theory, if those overseeing the management of the institution and its resources are excited about learning, they'll share this enthusiasm with those around them, a viral process that spreads from teachers to students, from students to parents and, before long, from parents to the community at large.

Aside from the obvious benefits received by students, think what this level of enthusiasm among voters would inspire when considering a funding-based referendum on the next ballot.