Leading Through Learning


This template pack is designed for system leaders and leadership teams looking to develop a customized Theory of Leadership—an approach that outlines their own role as leaders in designing, guiding and participating in system learning and improvement.

How to use this template

The templates included will walk you through a series of step-by-step activities that will help you:

  • map your stakeholders,

  • identify collaborators,

  • capture your current practices,

  • draft a learning-driven Theory of Leadership

  • build an aligned measurement framework, and

  • develop a narrative to help communicate your Theory of Leadership with others.

Note that it’s possible to articulate a Theory of Leadership as a team (e.g., an executive leadership team, a network hub) or as an individual (e.g., a team leader). Activities are designed for team-based development but may be easily adapted to accommodate an individual approach. Simply choose your adventure: Both approaches to Theory development can be fruitful, though they will differ in scope and scale.

Why these exercises are important

These exercises will help you develop a customized Theory of Leadership (“Theory”) which is an articulation of your approach as a leader to support learning and improvement in your system, large or small. A strong Theory describes your unique vision for their system and the steps you will take to get there. While most leaders operate with a tacit leadership approach in mind, articulating an explicit Theory allows leaders to capture, measure, and improve their own practice over time, as well as share their approach with others within or beyond their organization.

Your Theory of Leadership can be captured in a logic model that describes the causal relationship between leadership actions and short and long-term goals. By ensuring that your articulated actions and goals are explicit, and therefore measurable, you can treat your leadership approach as a hypothesis, testing and refining it over time; strengthening the relationship between your leadership and the behaviors, mindsets, and conditions in your system; and rising to meet new challenges and opportunities.


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@Center for Public Research and Leadership
The Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) at Columbia University strives to revitalize public school systems while reinventing professional education. CPRL conducts high-impact research and consulting projects for our clients in the education sector and provides rigorous coursework, skills training, and real world experiential learning for our graduate students who attend programs at Columbia University and across the country.
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