5 Characteristics of a Great School Principal
Thinking of becoming a school principal? The job is certainly a big one, but also one that can be extremely rewarding for the right type of person. Learn five characteristics of a great school principal to determine if this career path would be a good choice for you.
1. Outstanding Leader
A principal is in charge of all faculty, staff and students in the school, so if you want to be effective in this role, you must have strong leadership skills. You’ll be the first to get credit every time the school does something good, but you’ll also have to take the heat for failures. Be prepared to put everyone else’s needs ahead of your own and constantly work to create positive changes at your school. As the leader of the institution, its success or failure is in your hands, so you must be willing to take charge.
2. People Person
You can’t run a school from behind a desk. As the principal, you need to constantly make your presence known. The more effort you put into getting to know the students and teachers, the greater the impact you’ll be able to make. Spend time out in the halls between periods, sit in on classroom lessons, attend school events and anything else you can do to be actively involved. The simple act of smiling at people, saying hello in the halls and treating everyone with respect can set a tone of positivity for the entire institution.
3. Fair and Reasonable
It’s human nature to have favorites, but as the principal you absolutely cannot give anyone preferential treatment. You’ll quickly discredit yourself as a fair leader if students notice everyone isn’t being treated equally. For example, if two students who have never previously been in trouble get into a fight, you can’t you give one detention and suspend the other, just because one is on the honor roll. The same rule applies to your treatment of teachers. For example, you can’t grant a teacher you like permission to take their class on a fieldtrip and deny a similar request by another teacher you don’t care for.
4. Problem Solver
As the school principal, students, parents, teachers, faculty and staff will all view you as the ultimate problem solver. While you can’t be expected to resolve every issue, you will frequently need to get involved and help people find a solution to their problems. You’ll need to remain calm, consider all options and offer a completely unbiased opinion to settle the matter. It’s also up to you to empower teachers to offer solutions to problems in the school, rather than relying solely on you to initiate change. This creates a culture of people who want to contribute and make a difference, rather than waiting for change to find them.
5. Exceptional Listener
You never know who is going to walk into your office — and often times it’s going to be someone who isn’t too happy. As the principal, you need to let people know you care by listening to what they have to say. Often times, you may be able to diffuse the situation just by allowing the student, parent, teacher or staff member to vent. Listening to a person makes them feel like they matter and it really means a lot when they can get a few minutes of the principal’s time.
Considering the next steps for your career in the world of P-12 education? See how the programs in Argosy University’s College of Education could help you develop the skills you need.