Good Principals: What Traits Do They Share?
Becoming a school principal is not just a matter of sudden and easy decision. It requires many obligations. A principal must be a leader and should have important traits of a good principal because he is a vanguard in the whole school process.
This article focuses on how you can become a good principal and develop those skills that are the major requirement for being a successful principal of a successful school.
Listening and understanding what you have heard is one of the most important traits of a strong principal. By listening to others, you can find ways to solve problems, help kids and parents, and support teachers.
Being a good listener is an important trait for administrators to possess. Children and teachers have important things to say, and a lot can be learned and gained from listening well to them.
People do not always expect a principal to solve their problems. Many times, they just need someone who will listen to their concerns. An effective administrator knows when it is appropriate to shut up and just listen.
Being able to listen objectively with sincere eye contact is essential. The ability to build trust is an essential human relations skill that greatly facilitates interpersonal communications.
Today’s principal needs to develop teacher leadership, promote parent involvement, facilitate site-based decision-making, and make decisions in the best interest of all children. In order to accomplish all those things, a strong principal must be a good listener and flexible.
Flexibility and Respect
Principals must be flexible in their thought processes for they will be asked to consider new ideas that might enhance the school’s educational environment.
Flexibility is of utmost importance for other reasons too. A principal must be flexible in working with people. He or she must remember that teachers have problems, feelings, and sick kids at home and a principal must be flexible to be able to handle the variety of situations that can develop instantaneously. Perhaps that means dealing with an angry parent or counseling a student who has just lost his mother.
The ability to work as a member of a team is an important leadership skill too.
Focus on Children
Keeping kids as the focus of every decision- That’s the one trait that makes a stand-out principal.
When teachers always keep kids and the impact of their decisions on kids as their focus, the ultimate answers to many problems become more obvious.
Making decisions based on the best interests of children can also help prolong a principal’s career. ‘Not taking things personally’ is one of the most important traits of a strong principal. Whether your decision rests well with others or not, you do not have to internalize the results even though we sometimes do if you make decisions based on the best interests of the children.
A strong leader will stand up for what he or she believes is good and right for children and families. How can we expect teachers to make the best choices in educating our students if we, as administrators, do not model the dedication and passion for education that we want to see in them?
Principals need to exhibit a strong sense of integrity. As a strong leader, you must say what you mean and mean what you say, and then stand behind what you say.
Life Long Learner
The desire to be a “learner” is one of the most important traits of a good principal. A principal who is always learning, a principal who is constantly growing, is likely to be a strong principal.
A principal who is always learning models what he or she hopes the whole school staff will become a learning community. Hopefully, that engenders a spirit of ‘I’m not sure about that, let’s work on it together. That kind of spirit benefits the entire school.
Eyes on the Goal
A strong leader is one who never loses sight of the main educational vision and goal. Strong leaders never waiver from their quest to educate students and all who have contact with them. They do not just facilitate, they design and implement, and they find appropriate resources to carry out and fund student-centered instructional programs to achieve those goals.
A good leader offers all staff people the opportunity to improve. They have the ability to bring out the best in the entire faculty by making marginal teachers better and better teachers the best. They bring reformation, restoration, and rejuvenation to the school and its staff. Best principals can get teachers to do their personal best for children. A principal no matter how skilled, how child-focused, how positive, cannot possibly create an excellent educational environment for every child in the school without the teachers. The best principals are able to instill confidence and autonomy and personal ownership of the teaching task in the staff so everyone is working for the same goal.
If credibility and trust are not established, nothing the principal sets out to do can be achieved.
An effective administrator must be visible. Students, staff, and parents need to see the administrator in the classrooms, in the corridors, at lunches, at bus duty, and at extracurricular activities. If this is accomplished, the administrator will know his or her constituents, be aware of what is taking place in the building, and send the message to all that he or she is concerned.
Vision and Plan
Having a stated vision for the school and a plan to achieve that vision was the most important quality in school principals.
The principal needs to be the person steering the ship. The ship, of course, is the educational system, and the direction is as important as the ship.
If you do not know where you are headed, how can you get there in the most efficient, successful manner? Every trip needs to have a plan, or you can get lost and have an unproductive trip. Well-made plans ensure the best trips and provide time for handling unforeseen obstacles.
Walk Around Management
Being visible, getting out of the office and being seen all over the school was the most frequently identified quality of a strong school leader.
Getting out of the office and seeing what is going on in the school is very important to the welfare of everybody- the students, the parents, and the staff. By getting out of the office, a principal is able to take the ‘pulse’ of what is actually happening inside and outside the classroom. By being visible to all, everybody feels a part of the quest for education.
Communication is a two-way street. On so many occasions, I have been able to provide answers to teachers’ and students’ questions by popping in on classes and by being a presence around the school.
Interruptions, crises, phone calls, paperwork- They are all excuses to stay behind the desk. Principals must always make sure that they get out of the office as frequently as possible.
The students seem to be able to ‘sniff’ when the principal is out of the building. By being visible, the principal communicates a message that students and teachers are expected to maintain high standards, not only with academics.
School leaders need to be trustworthy and straight with students and staff. A leader earns credibility and trust by being honest, by knowing how to do his or her job, and by telling the truth and being up-front with teachers, parents, and students. Trust earns a high spot on list because it is earned by doing all of those other things -establishing a vision, involving others, taking risks, learning from mistakes, refusing to lose, inspiring rather than coercing, compromising, and much more. A relationship not based on integrity and trust is not worth anything. A principal needs to be utterly reliable.
If people- staff members, students, parents, community members, central office employees, school board members, do not believe you to be a person of integrity, it will not matter how well you communicate a vision, how visible you become, how hard you work to develop strong leaders and teachers.
Include Others in Decision Making Process
It is clear that a strong school leader must actively work to develop leadership skills in other people on the school staff. Either through insecurity or fear, we think we must be the Big Principal. We forget that the operation of the school relies heavily on even the water boy carrying our vision throughout the entire system. If we rely on others to carry the message, then they must be part of the decision-making process. Once they own part of the decision-making process, then they shoulder some of the responsibility.
Building leadership in others is very important. It is a reflection of trust in others, empowers others, and provides for a future for ‘the vision.’ It ensures that the vision will go on whether the principal is here to see it happen or not.
Good Sense of Humour
A school principal definitely needs a sense of humour to be successful. Principals need to laugh at themselves, laugh with their teachers, and laugh at the wonderful things the students do each day.
If a principal always takes things too seriously, he or she becomes quite dull and ineffective. Laughter is a universal language and an excellent form of communication for both desired and unacceptable behaviours. A smile accompanied by a strong, stern look lets a person know something is unacceptable, and a grin and twinkle in the eyes helps those around us relax and perform to best of their abilities.