Professional Development

7 Things Effective Principals Do Differently

Here are what principals do differently to be effective.

Awhile back we shone a light on the remarkable school administrator with our posts on the Art of Administration. We discussed learning philosophies, which makes great schools, school culture, and professional development. Keeping with that tradition, we're happy to share a TeachThought article we've discovered that focuses on the 7 habits of highly effective principals.

"What Effective Principals Do" was written by Ian Lancaster and features 7 practices that make administrators the supporters, mentors, and leaders we need them to be. Let's have a brief look at each of them below.

7 Things Done by Effective Principals

According to Ian Lancaster, effective principals:

  1. Balance management and leadership. Managing includes the tasks of necessity, and leadership the tasks of choice. You can't have one without the other.
  2. Envision what's ideal but focus on what's doable. Every principal dreams of their ultimate school, but the reality is effective principals work miracles with what they have in front of them. It all comes down to having a solid plan for both present and future action.
  3. Represent the missing voice. When dealing with only one side of a conflict, an administrator has to imagine the needs and struggles of the other party. People will always be complaining about something or someone. It's the principal's job to mediate and achieve a harmonious outcome for everyone.
  4. Listen and interpret. This is about figuring out the underlying meaning of what is being said using a balance of communication and compassion. "A student who admits to going to bed too late can be expressing numerous things, from anxiety issues to more esoteric ailments like screen addiction,” Ian states.
  5. Practice consistent reflection. We call this "Debriefing" in Solution Fluency, and it's perhaps the most important step. The driving question for this process becomes, "How could we do better?" This is how effective principals improve their practices constantly.
  6. Plan for their absence. Nothing lasts forever, and eventually one principal will be replaced by another. Effective principals surround themselves with people just as capable as they are. Using this practice, an admin will proactively pave the way for their successor.
  7. Make student learning the highest priority. What's best for _____? is the question educators most often find themselves asking. "Everyone in the field of education works from the premise that we’re here to help students," Ian says. "We all just need to be reminded once in a while."

Read Ian Lancaster's full article "What Effective Principals Do" on TeachThought.