10 Things a Successful School Principal Does Differently

School Principal

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Being a principal has its challenges. It is not an easy profession. It is a high-stress job that most people are not equipped to handle. A principal’s job description is broad. They have their hands in virtually everything related to students, teachers, and parents. They are the chief decision-maker in the building.

A successful school principal does things differently. As with any other profession, there are those principals who excel at what they do and those who lack the skills necessary to be successful. Most principals are in the middle of that range. The best principals have a particular mindset and a leadership philosophy that allows them to be successful. They utilize a combination of strategies that make themselves and others around them better thus allowing them to be successful.

Surround Themselves with Good Teachers

Hiring good teachers makes a principal’s job easier in virtually every aspect. Good teachers are solid disciplinarians, they communicate well with parents, and they provide their students with a quality education. Each of these things makes a principal’s job easier.

As a principal, you want a building full of teachers that you know are doing their job. You want teachers that are 100% committed to being effective teachers in every aspect. You want teachers who not only do their job well but are willing to go above and beyond the core requirements to ensure that every student is successful. Simply put, surrounding yourself with good teachers makes you look better, makes your job easier, and allows you to manage other aspects of your job.

Lead by Example

As a principal, you are the leader of the building. Every person in the building is watching how you go about your daily business. Build a reputation for being the hardest worker in your building. You should almost always be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. It is essential that others know how much you love your job. Keep a smile on your face, maintain a positive attitude, and handle adversity with grit and perseverance. Always maintain professionalism. Be respectful to everyone and embrace differences. Be the model for fundamental qualities such as organization, efficiency, and communication.

Think Outside the Box

Never put limitations on yourself and your teachers. Be resourceful and find creative ways to meet needs when issues arise. Do not be afraid to think outside the box. Encourage your teachers to do the same. Successful school principals are elite problem solvers. Answers do not always come easy. You have to utilize the resources creatively you have or figure out ways to get new resources to meet your needs. A terrific problem solver never dismisses another person’s idea or suggestion. Instead, they seek out and value input from others cooperatively creating solutions to problems.

Work With People

As a principal, you have to learn to work with all different types of people. Each person has their own personality, and you must learn to work effectively with each type. The best principals are able to read people well, figure out what motivates them, and strategically plant seeds that will eventually blossom into success. Principals must work with every stakeholder in the community. They should be skilled listeners who value feedback and use it to make recognizable changes. Principals should be on the front lines, working with the stakeholders to improve both their community and school.

Delegate Appropriately

Being a principal can be overwhelming. This is often amplified as principals by nature are typically control freaks. They have high expectations on how things should be done making it difficult to let others take the lead role. Successful principals are able to get past this because they realize there is value in delegating. First of all, it shifts the burden of responsibility from you, freeing you up to work on other projects. Next, you can strategically make individuals responsible for projects that you know fit their strengths and will help build their confidence. Finally, delegating reduces your overall workload, which in turn keeps your stress level at a minimum.

Create and Enforce Proactive Policies

Every principal should be an adept policy writer. Each school is different and has their own unique needs in terms of policy. Policy works best when it is written and enforced in such a way that very few want to take the chance to receive the attached consequences. Most principals will spend a large part of their day dealing with student discipline. Policy should be seen as a deterrent to distractions that interrupt learning. Successful principals are proactive in their approach to policy writing and student discipline. They recognize potential problems and address them before they become a significant issue.

Look for Long-Term Solutions to Problems

A quick fix is seldom the right solution. Long-term solutions require more time and effort in the beginning. However, they typically save you time in the long run, because you won’t have to deal with it as much in the future. Successful principals think two to three steps ahead. They address the little picture by fixing the large picture. They look beyond the specific circumstance to get to the cause of the problem. They understand that taking care of the core problem may head off several smaller issues down the road, potentially saving both time and money.

Become an Information Hub

Principals have to experts in many different areas including content and policy. Successful principals are a wealth of information. They stay up-to-date on the latest educational research, technology, and trends. Principals should at least have a working knowledge of the content being taught in each grade for which they are responsible. They follow educational policy at both the state and locals areas. They keep their teachers informed and are able to offer tips and strategies concerning best classroom practices. Teachers respect principals who understand the content they are teaching. They appreciate when their principal offers well thought out, applicable solutions to problems they may be having in the classroom.

Maintain Accessibility

As a principal, it is easy to get so busy that you shut your office door to try and get a few things done. This is perfectly acceptable as long as it isn’t done a regular basis. Principals must be accessible to all stakeholders including teachers, staff members, parents, and especially students. Every principal should have an open door policy. Successful principals understand that building and maintaining healthy relationships with everyone you work with is a key component to having an outstanding school. Being in high demand comes with the job. Everyone will come to you when they need something or when there is a problem. Always make yourself available, be a good listener, and most importantly follow through on a solution.

Students are the First Priority

Successful principals keep students as their number one priority. They never deviate from that path. All expectations and actions are directed to ensure a quality school for better students both individually and as a whole. Student safety, health, and academic growth are our most fundamental duties. Every decision that is made has to take the impact it will make on a student or group of students into account. We are there to nurture, counsel, discipline, and educate each and every student. As a principal, you must never lose sight of the fact that students should always be our focal point.

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Your Citation
Meador, Derrick. "10 Things a Successful School Principal Does Differently." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/things-a-successful-school-principal-does-differently-3194532. Meador, Derrick. (2020, August 26). 10 Things a Successful School Principal Does Differently. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/things-a-successful-school-principal-does-differently-3194532 Meador, Derrick. "10 Things a Successful School Principal Does Differently." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/things-a-successful-school-principal-does-differently-3194532 (accessed February 9, 2023).