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.
The job of a principal can get out of hand fast, but skilled principals around the world all share some common traits. Here are the top 10 skills every successful principal must have for a strong running school:
10) Managing Risk
Principals must make split-second decisions while weighing the costs and benefits. They have to calculate differing possibilities and prospective outcomes. Successful Principals are always looking ahead for both risks and opportunities that affect their schools.
9) Active Listening
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.
8) Priority Management
It is easy to spend significant amounts of time and energy on tasks that are unimportant if you do not have clear priorities. The better a principal can prioritize the things that have to be done, the better they can focus their efforts on the things that matter to their students and faculty most.
7) Empower Others
Successful principals see the greatness in others and do what they can to bring that greatness out of them. Faculty and staff grow as leaders when they get ownership of their decisions, hold themselves accountable for the decisions they make and outcomes that result, and have firsthand experience on the consequences of their actions. 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.
6) Delegate More Tasks
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. The benefits of delegating include better controlling your workload, develop your staff’s core skills, and enables your team to meet their goals faster, produce the best results, and help you accomplish more tasks than you would on your own.
5) Act Decisively
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.
4) Motivate Change
The fastest way to create a school where faculty and staff are stagnant and stuck is by fostering an environment that believes in the mantra “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. A key role in the life of a principal is to be persistent in constantly motivating change. This means change for the school, faculty, students, parents, and neighboring communities.
3) Communicate Clearly
Nothing makes performance suffer more than unclear communication. It doesn’t matter if it’s a staff member, faculty, parent, or student, they will not be able to do what you need them to do if they don’t know what you are trying to communicate. Strong communication is one of the top foundational elements to being a successful principal.
2) Promote Your Vision
Make your vision clear, not only to your staff, parents, and students but also to yourself. Create and promote a clear and defined vision for where you want your school to go and have it presented to your team daily. When this is achieved, not only is everyone more motivated, but also more effective since their responsibilities stay connected with your strategic goals and vision.
1) Educator First / Administrator Second
It’s easy to focus on career goals, day to day responsibilities, school budgets, and much, much more. As a principal, you are responsible for many things but don’t forget, you are an educator first. Successful principals keep their focus on their student success. Students depend on you, their parents depend on you, and the community (both inside and outside the school) depend on you. You cannot grow into a strong principal if you do not keep your focus on your students.
When you develop these skills on a daily basis, you will not only become an effective leader as a principal but more than likely, a successful one as well.