Business Competencies for the Independent School Leader

by Peter Baron
Business Competencies for the Independent School Leader

Over the past eight months, I’ve met with more than 100 heads of school and industry leaders about the independent school business model. 

Throughout this journey, I’ve asked leaders about the skills they wish they had learned or quickly needed to develop after starting their current roles.

From these conversations, a clear pattern emerged, highlighting the areas where leaders need the most growth.

This led me to craft a framework of eight business competencies to help leaders help their schools evolve and adapt to a shifting independent school market. 

I designed these as the foundation for all learning programs within Moonshot Lab and organized them into two main categories: Leadership and Operational Excellence. 

Whether you’re part of my community or not, I hope these insights will be valuable and directional.

Let’s review why each one is crucial for effective leadership.

Business Competencies for the Independent School Leader


Entrepreneurial Mindset
Identifies opportunities and launches impactful programs.

  • Leaders with an entrepreneurial mindset spot opportunities that others might miss. They’re not afraid to take calculated risks and are adept at launching initiatives that bring significant value to their schools.

Strategy & Change Management
Skilled at crafting strategy and leading change with agility.

  • Effective leaders must be strategic thinkers capable of crafting a clear vision for their schools. Equally important is their ability to lead change, adapting strategies to stay agile and responsive to evolving circumstances.

People Management & Development
Inspires and develops talent with visionary leadership.

  • A school’s greatest asset is its people. Leaders who excel in people management and development inspire their staff and students, fostering a culture of improvement and growth.

Adaptability & Continuous Learning
Champions adaptability and lifelong learning, expanding skills and networks.

  • Adaptability is vital. Leaders committed to continuous learning improve their skills and model this critical behavior for their teams, encouraging a culture that embraces growth and innovation.

Operational Excellence

Financial Acumen & Data-Informed Decision Making
Makes strategic, data-informed decisions, understanding business essentials.

  • A deep understanding of financial principles and the ability to make data-driven decisions are essential for sustainable success. Leaders who develop financial acumen can effectively navigate the complexities of budgeting, funding, resource allocation, and more.

Ensures the school and its ecosystem operate efficiently, aligning with the mission.

  • Operational excellence is about ensuring that the school’s daily functions run smoothly and efficiently. Leaders must align operations with the school’s mission, ensuring that every process supports the overarching goals.

Advancement & Enrollment Management
Expert in advancement and enrollment strategies, driving school revenue.

  • Advancement and enrollment are critical areas for a school’s growth and sustainability. Leaders must be skilled in crafting strategies that attract and retain students, in fundraising and development to secure the necessary resources, and in auxiliary programming to uncover new mission-aligned revenue streams.

Marketing Strategy
Learn and apply marketing principles, optimizing engagement and retention.

  • Effective marketing is essential in a competitive market. Leaders with a firm grasp of marketing strategies can better engage with current and prospective families and students, building a compelling narrative highlighting their school’s strengths. 

Now it’s your turn: what competencies do you think are critical to building financially sustainable schools? Let me know; I want to hear!

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