Why Leadership Matters
Strong leadership in afterschool and expanded learning programs is crucial to a program’s success, and afterschool directors who try to provide quality leadership or cultivate this trait among their staff face unique challenges. First, afterschool leaders often work with a staff of more diverse ages, experience, training, and educational background than their school-day counterparts do. Second, afterschool programs often have a broad array of responsibilities, ranging from academic enrichment to youth development activities. These depend on development, coordination, monitoring, and adjustment to meet program goals, all of which require strong leadership.
What makes a good afterschool leader? Findings in a 5-year study completed by the National Center for Quality Afterschool indicate that the leaders who were most successful in developing, implementing, and sustaining afterschool programs shared some common skills and behaviors.* These included the ability to
- understand and share intricate program goals and expectations,
- use program knowledge to build and maintain positive open relationships with diverse groups of people and individuals,
- empower and motivate the staff to achieve the program objectives, and
- continually review and revise any piece of the program.
There are a number of ways to develop leadership skills or cultivate them among your staff. Try finding a mentor to provide guidance in the skills you want to acquire. You can network with other afterschool professionals who are leaders in the field. If you want something more structured, professional development is another way to develop strong leadership skills.
* The study was based on site visits to 53 afterschool programs, representing eight regional divisions of the nation, including rural and urban programs and community-based and school-district–related programs. Researchers at CRESST evaluated data collected from interviews, surveys, and observations during the site visits, and used the results in the study.
Research indicates that leaders who are most successful in developing, implementing, and sustaining afterschool programs share some
The SEDL National Center for Quality Afterschool helps state education agencies and local practitioners develop high-quality programs for academic enrichment as well as youth development activities.