Social and Emotional Leadership Skills

Are you ready to have hard conversations? How will you handle conflict at a public meeting? How do you foster candor and engagement on your board? Develop your interpersonal competence and increase your confidence with a series of six webinars presented by Jim and Doug Bolton and the Illinois Association of School Boards. Build productive relationships with your board members and consistently perform at your best. IASB webinars are free and a benefit of membership.

Learn the social and emotional dynamics that underlie your success and overview the skills that can help you to be more effective in your role. In any learning community, student social and emotional learning (SEL) begins with the adults, and it is essential that school boards understand SEL and how it applies to them as well as their staff and students.

Watch Now:  Introduction to Social and Emotional Leadership Skills
High-stakes conversations are filled with “candor moments,” when we feel strongly about something but aren’t sure how to articulate it. In these moments, some people “bail out” of conversations, overwhelmed or shut down. Others “bruise” (metaphorically) by being harsh and overly assertive. When stuck in this bruise-bail cycle, communication remains defensive and unproductive. Learn a third way, the way of candor, which results respectful, open, and rigorous conversation about the issues that matter.

Watch Now: Communicating with Candor
Listening is the master skill underlying all communication. Skillful, intentional listening offers dramatic improvement to any important interaction. It enhances board members’ understanding of the needs and goals underlying different viewpoints and improves relationships with those essential to their success: other board members, the superintendent, and members of the community. In this session attendees will learn the skills required to be a better listener, and how to listen effectively when it counts.

Watch Now: Building Mutual Understanding, Trust, and Respect Through Listening
Stress pushes us down into the lower and more primitive parts of our brain, leaving us more focused on our own survival and less able to bring the essential problem-solving skills of empathy, listening, and flexibility that are essential for productive collaboration and decision-making. Understanding the basics of emotional regulation will not only help board members function more productively in meetings, but this information will also guide their understanding of student dysregulation and the importance of emotionally regulated school communities.

Watch Now: Emotional Regulation: How to Stay Centered in The Storm
Conflict is defined as “competing needs accompanied by high emotion.” When people are flooded by emotions they become defensive, triggering defensiveness in others in a negative spiral. This session introduces a process to de-escalate the negativity and emotional gridlock that blocks board members’ ability to substantively address the important needs underlying others’ strong points of view.

Watch Now: Working Through Conflict and Gridlock
Given the open nature of school board meetings and the contentious issues they address, knowing how to handle hostile questions and comments in the horseshoe is a key success skill for board members. Not about changing or softening your point of view; this skill is about treating the question and questioner with respect and in so doing, earning respect as a leader and making it easier for others to hear your perspective as well. This session will introduce a method for handling hostile questions and invite members to practice handling hostile questions.

Watch Now: Handling Hostile Questions While Standing Your Ground


Jim Bolton is a consultant, trainer, and executive coach that helps leaders build high-candor cultures in their organizations. For over 30 years, his firm, Ridge Training, has taught leaders in business and education the social and emotional leadership skills needed to build trust, communicate with respect, and deescalate conflict. Over the years these skills have been widely adopted in school districts throughout the US, including Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, and Texas. Additionally, Bolton has presented on these topics at national conferences and has been quoted in numerous business publications including Executive Excellence and Harvard Management Update. Learn more about Jim Bolton and Ridge Training at

Dr. Doug Bolton is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with Formative Psychological Services in Northbrook who has worked with children, adolescents, couples, and families for over 25 years. As a former psychologist and principal at North Shore Academy, a K-12 therapeutic school in Highland Park, he provided intensive therapeutic services to students and families and supervised the school’s clinical services. Currently, in addition to his private practice, Dr. Bolton provides consultation, supervision and professional development to parents, educators, and clinicians throughout northern Illinois on building children’s resilience, mental health issues in schools, and creating trauma-responsive school communities.