Today there is no one widely accepted definition for teacher leadership that encompasses the myriad roles that teacher leaders play in their schools and districts. Teacher leadership looks different for every teacher who pursues it, dependent on his or her context. However, there are some common traits among successful teacher leaders across the spectrum. The TLI model is built around a set of teacher leadership competencies – knowledge and skills that can be acquired and honed among aspiring and emerging leaders.

These competencies are identified and developed along three high-leverage pathways in which teacher leaders can have an impact on the profession: Instructional Leadership, Policy Leadership and Association Leadership. Connecting the three spheres are overarching competencies.

Overarching Competencies

Competency ThemeEmergingDevelopingPerformingTransforming
Reflective PracticeMindful and deeply aware of who he/she is as a teacher leader, and aware of areas of possible growth into further leadership

Models strong, reflective instructional and leadership practice and engages in a mindful search for opportunities to grow in and out of the classroom

Understands the role of data and reflective analysis in practice
Helps to create conditions that encourage reflection among peers, administrators, and other staff members

Makes strategic plans that are informed by data and reflective analysis
Encourages a broad and diverse range of stakeholders to reflect deeply on their roles and responsibilities within instruction, policy, the association, or other elements of teaching and leading

Engages in the development and implementation of strategies and policies that encourage reflection leading to refinement and growth

Aids others in understanding and using data and reflective analysis to drive practice, policy, and organizational decisions
Helps systems to function with a culture of mindful and meaningful reflection

Leads the development and implementation of large-scale instructional, policy, and organizational ideas that incorporate reflection and refinement

Leads the collection and analysis of data, and supports cultural shifts that incorporate the cycle of reflection and refinement as a regular, consistent, and intentional practice
Personal EffectivenessUnderstands his or her own personal strengths, leadership style, and passions, and sees the role these play in developing trust and credibility with peers

Explores opportunities for teacher leadership, accepting the possibility of adversity
Capitalizes on his or her own strengths, leadership style, and passions, and engages in ethical practice, developing trust and credibility with others

Takes on teacher leadership roles and responds to adversity with resiliency and humility
Adapts in ways that build trust and credibility to support lifelong learning in self and others

Balances the roles and duties of teacher leadership with other professional responsibilities, including, when applicable, meaningful work with students

Models resiliency and humility in adverse situations
Defines new learning based on individual strengths, styles, and leadership passions, nurturing credible and trusting communities of life-long learners

Designs new models of teacher leadership and supports others in responding to adversity with resiliency and humility

Engages in strategic, vision-aligned risk-taking to achieve wide, lofty, and meaningful goals
Interpersonal EffectivenessBecomes familiar with the skills needed to support colleagues

Demonstrates a personal vision for the profession, association, and/or education policy
Seeks opportunities to become more effective in supporting colleagues in ways that build trust

Builds critical relationships intended to promote action based on shared vision, deeply rooted in the needs of students
Serves as a support for others, effectively communicating and engendering trust, with empathy, warmth, and humility

Encourages and inspires others to take action grounded in shared vision for the benefit of students
Fosters others' development in interpersonal effectiveness and articulates ways to support others in effectively communicating

Facilitates others in building and embracing vision that spans boundaries while remaining student-centered
CommunicationSees the needs and challenges to student growth, successful teaching and learning, and systemic effectiveness, and feels ready and able to address them

Crafts engaging and thoughtful message that inspire others
Articulates the message that informed, meaningful student-centered goals are worth striving for and what mindful approaches to policy, the association, and instruction may look like

Shares a carefully crafted message in ways that will spur others to pursue positive change
Defines, differentiates, and effectively delivers messaging to advance systemic change

Engenders great passion and understanding for the vision of the leader through skillful use of messaging and consistency of focus
Influences other teacher leaders and builds their capacity to communicate and advocate effectively with stakeholders at all levels

Successfully navigates communication within diverse and sometimes adversarial power structures
Continuing Learning and EducationCreates meaningful professional learning goals, and finds resources to meet those goals

Reads scholarly journals and other publications and shares experiences in various venues, such as personal blogs or social media profiles

Stays abreast of relevant issues and developments in instruction, policy, and/or the association
Participates in learning opportunities outside of familiar contexts, including additional higher education and/or advanced training to meet goals

Reads and/or contributes, formally or informally, to conversations around education, and engages in existing research actively by sharing with colleagues and applying new ideas to his or her own practice

Attends events such as association conferences or policy forums to learn about the issues being tackled in those realms
Designs learning opportunities for self and others around shared professional learning goals, including both job-embedded professional development and outside activities

Participates in research projects, seeks publication in scholarly journals, and/or finds new media venues for teacher leaders' voices

Leads sessions at conferences and events addressing instruction, the association, and/or policy
Crafts and leads continuing education programs for fellow teacher leaders, including higher education courses, large-scale professional development opportunities, and leadership/advocacy professional learning

Presents his or her own research at major events and conferences, regularly contributes to scholarly publications, and/or designs new ways for fellow teacher leaders to reach and teach a wide audience

Organizes learning events for his or her association and/or for policymakers and other stakeholders, and brings other teacher leaders in as presenters
Group ProcessesActively participates in group meetings, events, and learning opportunities, and understands the roles of these opportunities in teacher leadership

Engages in work with others with a spirit of open-mindedness and respect for diversity
Understands the fundamentals of leading group dynamics, collaborating and navigating difficult situations, and honoring diversity of opinion and varying strengths and stylesSkillfully manages group dynamics, collaborates, and guides groups through challenges, controversy, conflicts, and adversity, applying an understanding of diversity and what that diversity contributes to group workCreates new groups and leads existing groups, offering solutions to challenges and actively engaging diverse opinions and experiences in producing solutions and desired outcomes
Adult LearningUnderstands the differences in the ways in which adults learn and grow professionally, respecting their expertise and valuing the direct impact adult learning has on student successBuilds on awareness of adult learning to better understand how to impact colleagues and address their diverse needs, tapping their areas of expertise and experience to enhance personal and group growthLeads learning activities to enhance the practice of others at various levels of leadership by implementing adult learning strategies, tapping into peers' diverse areas of expertiseDesigns and implements new learning opportunities for adults, respecting them where they are in their personal practice, while focusing on extending personal and collective growth

Develops learning experiences that are extendable and replicable across diverse contexts and communities
Technological FacilityUses technology as a tool for communicating, beyond teaching and learning, and into leadership applications

Utilizes technology to manage professional responsibilities, and to expand his or her capacity as a teacher leader

Uses technology to engage in synchronous as well as asynchronous collaboration
Infuses appropriate existing technology to communicate in working in policy, association, and instructional leadership, and to build networks with colleagues, parents, and other stakeholders

Explores technology innovations

Uses technology to engage in synchronous as well as asynchronous collaboration to develop a vision
Demonstrates appropriate use of existing technology to further learning for students and adults, communicate with diverse audiences, and offer learning opportunities that would otherwise be inaccessible, extending the experiences of learners

Incorporates emerging technologies into practice

Uses technology to facilitate synchronous as well as asynchronous collaboration that is aligned to vision
Leads technological innovation and transformation to create new forms of and uses for technology as a tool for communicating, advocating, managing, networking, learning, and teaching

Uses technology to support and lead synchronous as well as asynchronous collaboration, including innovative use of virtual environments, to leverage change; shows inventiveness in connecting other teacher leaders

Instructional Leadership Competencies

Competency ThemeEmergingDevelopingPerformingTransforming
Coaching and MentoringValues the importance of self and professional improvement and development for the benefit of students

Engages in peer assistance and review for personal feedback and growth

Allows colleagues to observe his or her teaching practice
Promotes an environment of collegiality, trust, and respect

Fosters the development of fellow teachers, valuing and respecting where they are in their personal practice

Helps colleagues to make their own professional decisions by asking appropriate questions and encouraging reflection
Engages in formal roles of coaching and mentoring

Utilizes multiple measures to identify effective teaching and successful student learning

Connects colleagues based on strengths, needs, and personal and academic qualities, and decides how to meet those needs once connections have been made

Identifies others who would be good mentors/leaders
Creates new systems that foster the development of fellow teacher leaders, envisioning what they need and developing systems to meet those needs on a large scale

Creates opportunities, which could include partnerships and other outside support, for fellow teacher leaders to design coaching and mentoring opportunities in their own contexts
Facilitating Collaborative RelationshipsUnderstands the importance of a collaborative culture, articulates the need for such a culture, and works with colleagues to create a productive environment

Shows a willingness to work as part of a group to address as well as implement resolutions to needs and/or challenges
Understands policies and initiatives that impact teaching and learning

Knows how to build consensus and peer capacity around issues related to student learning
Articulates ways to collaboratively improve the implementation of initiatives and/or to introduce new programs and policies

Connects colleagues to meet one another's needs in their developmental stages, working, when necessary, to bridge gaps of time and geography to increase capacity on a large scale
Reflects on his or her leadership and its impact on colleagues

Objectively evaluates and learns from decision-making processes and their outcomes

Reaches out and works effectively regardless of time or geography, bringing together diverse perspectives and contexts and uniting them in shared work and vision
Community Awareness, Engagement, and AdvocacyRecognizes the unique needs, culture, and context of students and advocates for their learning and well-being

Demonstrates awareness of his or her community landscape in order to more effectively advocate for the unique needs of each student with sensitivity to culture and context
Uses a deep understanding of the school, cultural, community, political, and educational landscapes to meaningfully connect and create buy-in with families, schools, and community partners to address student needsFacilitates the creation of genuine partnerships, including those among colleagues, students, parents, communities, policymakers, and beyond to:
  • Address the current and future needs of students
  • Inspire and improve the community, and
  • Elevate the profession
Seamlessly leads and supports stakeholders to refine, redefine, or recreate the culture and community within which students live, grow, and develop

Makes a targeted effort to reach out to disenfranchised and/or disengaged populations that often fall outside the system, engendering in them a community spirit and sense of belonging in various educational contexts

Policy Leadership Competencies

Competency ThemeEmergingDevelopingPerformingTransforming
Policy ImplementationDemonstrates awareness that policy impacts the school environment, and engages in inquiry to learn and understand what policies are at play, and what effects they have on school communitiesFilters and discriminates information to gain a meaningful understanding of the processing and intent of policy, and implements mandated policies effectively and gracefullyActively engages in the skillful inclusion of policy in practice, utilizing a culture of research and inquiry around policy issuesLeads the development of effective and innovative plans to move ideas into action at many levels, as a result of inquiry and research

Innovates strategies for implementing poor policy while maximizing the benefit of sound policy
Policy AdvocacyResearches and understands the scope of various policiesUtilizes professional expertise and experience, as well as listening to others' ideas, to evaluate existing and proposed policies that impact classroom, school, district and community

Advocates for positive changes to existing policies and for best practice in new policies.
Organizes others around the best ideas for improvement, based on his or her own understanding as well as thorough engagement with others' ideas, through various communication methods and diverse alliancesInspires others to act through convincing, stakeholder-specific messaging

Creates and strengthens alignments with various stakeholders

Inspires action of others to advocate for the profession
Policy MakingDemonstrates awareness of the process of creating policy, including familiarity with key stakeholders and influencersEffectively explains policy and its relationship to current work to othersDrives effective policy content based on deep understanding of research

Strengthens alliances with a diverse set of stakeholders
Sustains and builds relationships around policy shifts to leverage change

Runs for office or takes a role as a policymaker beyond the school in other formal leadership roles
Policy Engagement and RelationshipsPrepares himself or herself to speak to the current issues around education

Knows the names, roles, alignments, and functions of various policymakers
Develops powerful messaging about school culture and school environment

Connects with policymakers, using methods that effectively engage them and enhance their willingness to listen and learn
Takes formal leadership roles that influence or directly involve policymaking

Builds strong relationships with policymakers that encompass the ability to both listen to them and influence them
Influences other teacher leaders to take a role in policymaking

Fosters the development of coalitions and gains the support of organizations in pursuit of a positive policy agenda

Influences other teacher leaders to own the agenda

Association Leadership Competencies

Competency ThemeEmergingDevelopingPerformingTransforming
Organizational Effectiveness: Leading with VisionUnderstands the association mission, vision, and values and uses them to guide his or her influence when working with colleagues and the communityFacilitates or coordinates the work of members in pursuit of the mission, vision, and values of the associationInspires and guides a critical mass of members to invest themselves in support of the mission, vision, and values of the association, to pursue strategic goals through targeted actions, and to measure success through meaningful data about progress toward the desired visionEnergizes members to create and pursue transformative vision and values for the association, responding to and anticipating new challenges and greater achievements

Broadens the vision of the association, activating meaningful change and empowering both members and leaders to see beyond the current or traditional roles of the association in fostering teacher leadership
Organizational Effectiveness: Leading with SkillRecognizes the need for leaders to exercise skillful stewardship of the association's vision and resources

Understands the need for members to grow from dues payers to passionate participants in the work of the association
Assists with tasks of conducting the association's business under the direction or mentorship of other leaders

Encourages others to participate in the work of the association
Conducts association business operations with skill, integrity, and effectiveness

Strengthens the capacity of the association through wise use of resources, increased membership, and involvement
Reinvents how the association does business in ways that allow it to achieve a broadened vision with even greater success

Expands the capacity of the association by identifying and engaging new partners, markets, and resource providers
Organizing and AdvocacyRecognizes the role of partnerships and their power as a tool to pursue desired outcomes for children, schools, and the teaching professionParticipates with fellow association members and coalitions of other organizations in implementing strategies to influence policymakers and decision makers to generate desired changeUtilizes strong relationships and compelling issues to build impactful networks (members, leaders, and coalitions within and across organizations) to generate significant changes across a broad range of issues that impact students, schools, and school employeesActs as a key power broker whose influence is sought by policymakers and a range of other progressive-minded organizations and unions
Building Capacity of OthersUnderstands the range of skills and styles of leadership and communication that individuals may possess and is familiar with her or his own strengths and limitationsCollaborates in implementing professional growth activities to help colleagues develop and expand leadership skillsDevelops and implements professional growth opportunities for members working to realize their potential, developing as educators and association leadersHelps others discover greater potential, envision and achieve unimagined knowledge and skills, and extends responsibility to others
Learning Community and Workplace CultureRecognizes the important role of contracts and policies in either facilitating or interfering with creating, sustaining, and expanding positive environments for teaching and learningUnderstands the landscape of major policy and contractual initiatives and uses research to identify and advocate for contract provisions and policy options that can have a positive impact on teaching and learning conditionsUtilizes various strategies (including interest-based problem solving) to guide the development and implementation of desirable changesLeads efforts to develop new and innovative policies and contractual articles to enhance such areas as:
  • The learning environment for students
  • The teaching environment for educators, and/or
  • The community environment for families