What Qualities Make A Great Principal?

Principals are to schools as CEOs are to businesses. This means that their leadership has a great impact on the success of the institution. Principals play a large role in how students, administrators, and teachers go about their day-to-day academic activities. Knowing what makes a great principal helps pave the way to success. 


We’ll touch on the impact of a principal, why relationships are so important, and the top qualities that make a principal outstanding. 



School principal talking to teachers



The Impact of a Principal


Second only to teacher effectiveness, school principals have been shown to account for 25% of students’ academic growth. 


This is because a principal serves as the top leader for an academic institution, by which all policies and attitudes stem from. A principal impacts the direction of a school, involvement in professional development, mentorship, and leadership. 


A principal is often responsible for overseeing all administrative tasks, supervising and hiring teachers, planning academic calendars, creating school policies, designing programs, managing the budget, and disciplining unruly students. The decisions of a principal are both large and small. As such, it’s easy to see how a principal impacts all functioning within a school. 



Why Relationships Mean So Much 


Every day, a principal has to communicate with lots of people. Being good at building and maintaining relationships, as well as having strong communication skills, is a non-negotiable for a principal to possess. Principals work with other administrators, staff, teachers, students, community members, and parents. 


Oftentimes, principals are approached with big problems that need solutions. Having to deal with varying emotions from good to bad, principals have to be open to talking to anyone that needs them. 



Top Qualities of a Good Principal 


When everything rests on the skills of a leader, it’s best to know what makes a leader skillful. Here are some of the top qualities that good principals should display:



Accept Responsibility


Principals will undoubtedly face both highs and lows. Good principals know how to tackle challenges and accept responsibility when things don’t turn out as planned. This means that they are adaptive and ready to try other solutions if their first approach doesn’t work. Additionally, because principals are at the top of the pyramid, when things fail that wasn’t their own doing, they still have to accept responsibility as the leader. 



Promote Collaboration


Schools are made up of many moving parts. Each school has a culture. In the best cases, a principal promotes collaboration between teachers, students, parents, and community members. By working together in support of the educational framework, schools that are collaborative in nature can benefit greatly.   



Listen Well


When you think of a leader, it’s all too often that people think of one person who delegates tasks and may boss others around. But contemporary leaders are great listeners. They give time to every person to share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Besides just hearing the thoughts of others, they make an effort to incorporate the ideas of others into action. Great principals also ask all the right questions to better understand a contributor’s reasoning.  



Get Involved


Good principals are involved in the day-to-day inner workings of their school. They spend time in classrooms, hallways, and the administrative offices to see how things are going. While they need to be in their office to take care of business, they should be visible around the school to show their investment in their team and students. 



Build Relationships


Meaningful relationships are rooted in purpose. Principals build relationships with their teachers and students to achieve goals. They are able to clearly communicate expectations, provide actionable feedback, and talk to others without struggle. With strong relationships, principals are privy to problems before they blow out of proportion and can help to keep the school running smoothly. 



Offer Support


One of the most crucial characteristics of being a good principal comes down to offering support to staff and students. In many cases, when a teacher feels unsupported, they may quit their job. This isn’t a reflection of the school, but rather the leadership. Principals need to bridge the gap between inefficient and efficient teachers and help guide professional development. 



Continue Learning


Successful people tend to be endlessly curious with a strong desire to learn. When it comes to being a principal who wants to continue to learn, this could mean publishing research or taking on a leadership position in a community organization. It could also mean gaining more certifications or enrolling to earn a Master’s Degree in Education, if they don’t already have one. 



Celebrate Big and Small Wins


The celebration of victories, both small and large, helps to boost school morale. Celebrating small wins is especially important because it recognizes teachers who are trying their best to help students. For example, a principal can celebrate a teacher who hasn’t missed a day of work or has witnessed a boost in their students’ capabilities. 



Develop Leaders


Principals often become mentors for their teachers and students. As a leader, it’s important to give time and guidance to the teachers who have the will to better themselves. The job of a good principal isn’t over once they hire a teacher; in fact, it’s just beginning. Next comes the opportunity to offer advice, help them solve problems, and serve as a guiding light. 



Have a Vision


Good principals have goals for their school. Not only do they set up a plan to reach their vision, but they share their vision with others so people can be on the same page. By having a strong vision and approach, good principals can guide their school to greatness.  



Teacher and principal meeting to share school plan on whiteboard



Good Principals Follow Principles 


Good principals are guided by their strong foundations, principles, and desire to achieve greatness. From being strong listeners to investing in their own growth, a principal plays a huge role in how a school is run. Their leadership is one of the most highly cited determinants of a school’s overall success. 


Of course, it takes strong teachers and motivated students to do well, but the school’s culture and programs are often decided by the principal at the top. 


The aforementioned characteristics are just a few examples of what makes a great school principal. While every principal brings their own style of leadership to their school, these characteristics help to sum up how a principal can go from being mediocre to great. 


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