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School Counselors Are School Leaders

By Silvia Koch | February 2020

School counselors and school leaders may seem mutually incompatible in nature and on opposite ends of the spectrum. School leaders are determined, focused and task oriented. School counselors are relationship oriented and most counselors are drawn into the profession because of their strong personal, social and emotional skills. Being a leader does not come naturally for them. Yet the school counselor as a leader in the 21st century is someone who can create a fundamental transformation in the learning cultures of schools. Leadership in today's schools requires vision, the ability to develop others, collaboration skills, the willingness to be accountable and the ability to see the bigger picture. School counselors are and need to be school leaders!

Leadership for school counselors does not necessarily equate with a position or membership on a leadership team. Rather, leadership for school counselors is a mindset, a way of thinking about how you can impact student success. Developing leadership skills is not an event or a one-time professional development opportunity. It is a long and conscientious process in which the counselor continually looks at how they are meeting the needs of their students. It takes a combination of leadership traits to make a school counselor effective. School counselors must use listening skills and offer empathy to build relationships. They must also perform assessments and coordinate activities and educational efforts. These duties mean that counselors must remain flexible and exercise authority when appropriate. Not one of these traits alone is enough, and no one is equally adept in all of them

The need for effective leaders in school counseling has never been more important. School counselors are uniquely equipped to bridge the gaps between administration, teachers, parents and students. Here are some ways school counselors can serve as school leaders.
  1. School counselors have the ability to recognize and showcase diversity. Counselors can help create an inclusive environment that is respectful, welcoming, kind, and open to all. They can advocate for disadvantaged and disenfranchised students.
  2. School counselors can help develop community partnerships with universities, technical schools, military reps, private businesses, local enterprise and others to provide a variety of opportunities for students.
  3. School counselors can show the value of data. Trained in data collection and analysis, they are skilled at using this information to drive decisions about placement, intervention and overall student health and well-being.
  4. School counselors maintain strong home–school connections and maximize educational success. Counselors tend to be the liaison for parents when it comes to communicating with the school.
  5. School counselors empower and inspire. They believe in people and work constantly to communicate that. Their calming, caring and encouraging presence helps support and empower faculty and staff in the schools.
School counselors serve as leaders in many ways and we need to value their perspectives and strengths. They are vital to building positive learning environments in which students can thrive and succeed.