K-12 principals must be some of the most effective leaders in the world to be successful. It’s no surprise to educators when you tell them that an average day in the life of a K-12 principal is filled with last-minute student emergencies, faculty challenges, and angry parents all before most people wake up to start their days. At times, the job can be a thankless one, but principals push through with one common goal; make it possible for the kids they support to have the best possible education that can be provided.
Second only to teacher effectiveness, school principals have been shown to account for 25% of students’ academic growth.
This is because a principal serves as the top leader for an academic institution, by which all policies and attitudes stem from. A principal impacts the direction of a school, involvement in professional development, mentorship, and leadership.
A principal is often responsible for overseeing all administrative tasks, supervising and hiring teachers, planning academic calendars, creating school policies, designing programs, managing the budget, and disciplining unruly students. The decisions of a principal are both large and small. As such, it’s easy to see how a principal impacts all functioning within a school.
The job of a principal can get out of hand fast, but skilled principals around the world all share some common traits.
- Communicate Clearly and Effectively
Nothing makes performance suffer more than unclear communication. Strong communication is one of the top foundational elements to being a successful principal. As a principal, you come into contact with many different people: parents, students, and staff members. Therefore, you need to make sure that you communicate any necessary information to them, and in an appropriate way- the way that you would address a student would be different from how you would communicate with a parent or staff member.
- Listen Well
Listening clearly is just as important as communicating clearly. When you think of a leader, it’s all too often that people think of one person who delegates tasks and may instruct others around. But contemporary leaders are great listeners. They give time to every person to share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns. This means being able to hear/see things beyond your point of view and checking your own understanding of things. Successful Principals intentionally focus on listening and understanding things from another person’s perspective. Active listening is one of the best skills that a principal can cultivate and use.
- Empower and Support
One of the most crucial characteristics of being a good principal comes down to offering support to staff and students. In many cases, when a teacher feels unsupported, they may quit their job. This isn’t a reflection of the school, but rather the leadership. Successful principals see the greatness in others and do what they can to bring that greatness out of them. Ask a strong principal and s/he will tell you that it is part of their job as a leader to help their people develop into top performers.
- Have a Vision
Good principals have goals for their school. Not only do they set up a plan to reach their vision, but they share their vision with others so people can be on the same page. Effective principals take time to ensure that they have a complete understanding of the problems that they face and respond by taking strong decisive action without over questioning themselves. This skill can be achieved by balancing a) impulses that come from being impatient (reacting without thinking) and b) overthinking and delaying action.
- Be able to Delegate
By nature, strong leaders tend to lead by example, with a tendency of wanting to do things by themselves, but it is important to learn how to delegate. There is a common misconception that a good leader is someone who is able to do everything themselves. Whereas, in fact, the best leaders (and therefore the best school principals) know when they should delegate a certain task to someone else. The benefits of delegating include better controlling your workload, develop your staff’s core skills, produce the best results, and help you accomplish more tasks than you would on your own. This is where being able to delegate specific tasks to other members of staff comes in very handy!
Being a school principal is not an easy role to fulfill but the people that do, and do it well, all manage to have similar characteristics. The previously mentioned characteristics are just a few examples of what makes a great school principal. While every principal brings their own style of leadership to their school, these characteristics help to sum up how a principal can go from being mediocre to great.
What Qualities Make A Great Principal?; University of the People, https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/what-qualities-make-a-great-principal/.
Ramon Castillo (2019), Top 10 Qualities of a Good School Principal; Pikmykid, https://www.pikmykid.com/top-10-skills-every-school-principal-must-have/.