Profile of an Effective Leader


Here at Kickboard, we know a lot of stellar school leaders (you can read about their transformative work here.) We work with more than 600 schools each year, and through that work we’ve noticed some clear trends about how effective leaders think and behave.

The strongest Kickboard school leaders exemplify the qualities below. They are leaders who are using data daily to drive drastic improvements in both culture and academic outcomes.


An effective Kickboard leader is data-driven. They understand that data should be used as a part of a regular cycle for improvement and use it to make major culture decisions. The leader uses Kickboard’s tools to help keep a pulse on what’s happening across the school. Because of data, they know things like what grade bands need the most intensive support, which teachers have shown the most dramatic improvement in behavior management, and students who may need additional support to be successful. Kickboard analysis tools help leaders compare Kickboard usage among staff. They can respond to the usage data by drilling down on a specific staff member profile and crafting coaching based on the teacher’s unique needs.

A Role Model 

An effective Kickboard leader models the behavior she wants to see in her teachers. Every morning, despite a mounting to-do list, the leader is outside warmly greeting students, shaking hands and saying something positive to kickstart their day. The leader participates in the same behavior systems as teachers, like demonstrating the power of positive narration by using it at assemblies. While in the hallways, she refers to the visual anchor charts posted throughout the building to reinforce expectations. She serves as a model to her staff for parent communication as well, calling children who have gone above and beyond expectations


Throughout the day, a Kickboard leader is highly visible and is using that visibility to reinforce culture expectations and encourage students. He supports staff on lunch duty, walking around with his tablet to award Kickboard points to students who are meeting expectations. When he can’t be physically present himself, the leader makes sure other administrators are stationed at key places throughout the building to support culture at busy times. He directs them to issue Kickboard dollars to students and groups who are following expectations.


A leader prevents negative behaviors by investing energy into explicitly teaching expectations to students up front. He makes sure teachers have the time to help students understand expectations and gives the teachers resources to do it. He knows intuitively that addressing student behavior slips before they become major issues is key. For example, Kickboard can automatically flag a student who has lost too many points in a day for a counselor intervention. Leaders know that helping a student who shows signs of struggling early on can prevent larger culture breaches down the line.


An effective leader doesn’t just react. Rather, he anticipates culture challenges and uses the tools at his disposal to proactively address them. He and his staff identify “hot weeks” in the school’s calendar — those times of the year where culture can slip, like right before a break or during testing — and incentivizes the heck out of them. He sees the value in reflecting on data, puts data step-backs on the PD calendar well in advance and sticks to them. He knows that some staff members or grade bands that will have trouble following through on data collection. He gets ahead of this by meeting with them early to set small goals around implementation and data entry.


Effective leaders use data to support teachers, students and parents. When a teacher is struggling with behavior, an effective leader uses Kickboard to help identify trends in the specific behaviors occurring in class. From there, the leader can support the teacher in implementing strategies that positively reinforce target behaviors. If side conversations are derailing classroom lessons, leaders can help teachers reward students who are following directions, meeting volume expectations and raising hands to speak.

Supportive leaders use Kickboard to help individual students and families, too. Students who have exhibited positive behavior choices or patterns would be supported with positive, proactive parent communication. A student who has lost too many points in a day may get recommended for a counselor intervention, or get a phone call home with the family to problem-solve.


There are a million competing priorities on a given school day. An effective leader is focused on what matters most. She knows that keeping culture at the center of conversations — and using Kickboard to help her do that — will drive positive outcomes for students. Collecting and analyzing culture data is a part of a normal routine in the strongest schools. Leaders use every opportunity to remind teachers and students of priorities and celebrate progress.

Strategies for keeping culture top of mind for teachers and students include: 

  • Make culture data analysis a regular thing— weekly or bi-weekly
  • Carve out five minutes at the beginning of every meeting to pull up the school dashboard and reflect on the positivity ratio
  • Give shout-outs to the grade level with the highest proportion of positive-to-negative behaviors on the school dashboard
  • Use Kickboard points to determine student rewards and recognition in addition to academics
  • Incorporate conversations about Kickboard data when talking to families— pull up the dashboard during conferences, IEP meetings and the like