Around 25,000 principals separate from their school at the end of each year, leaving schools in constant states of turnover. Around half of all school principals depart their school by the end of their third year, and only about one out of four high school principals make it through year five. We are in a state of principal churn, and our schools and students are the ones who feel the negative effects. The principal is attributed to about 25% of the school’s impact on student achievement and the most effective principals are worth months of learning to the average student at their school. Leadership matters and we have lots of turnover in the position across the country.
This week we’re taking a look at what we can do to stop the principal churn. Today, we introduces seven reasons why principals are successful in their principalship. They are also the same seven reasons why principals struggle.
- Preparation. There are three performance dimensions to the principal’s job: knowledge, skills, and dispositions. When the leader is prepared in each of those three areas good things are going to happen. When there is a hole in any or all of those areas, however, it often comes to light quickly. The principals who are able to be successful in the job are better prepared for it; those who struggle get to the job without being ready for it either because of lacking skill sets (able to bring others together to work effectively), knowledge base (unfamiliar with special education laws, lack of familiarity with curriculum), or leadership dispositions (not able to relate to others, failure to build relationships).
- Communication. Principals who are effective communicators are able to spread the vision and help others improve in their work. They are good listeners first and are skillful in motivating teachers and staff to do their best.
- Leading. Principals have to be able to have tough conversations. They have to be willing to make decisions for the best of the school and the students even when they know that it won’t make everyone happy. The most effective leaders are able to get others to join them in the journey to success. Struggling leaders try to to it all alone.
- Judgment. Everyone is assessing you as a leader in three categories: your judgment, your treatment of others, and your results. Often if your results are good, your judgment will be considered good as well, but if your results are faltering your judgment will come into question. How do you have good judgment? Through experience. You either gain that by making your own mistakes or by trusting others who have made them in their experience. It’s good to listen.
- Confidence. Just as students can smell fear in a new teacher or a substitute, the teachers can tell whether you are a confident leader or not. Those who are doubting themselves give room for others to doubt them as well. Too much confidence is a problem as well, but not enough is worse. People don’t want to follow those who aren’t strong enough to lead.
- Time Management. Time management is hard on everyone. The truth is, this job is going to take more of it than you have. So, it’s not about that, but rather about knowing what has to be done and then getting to what should be done. The most effective principals utilize staff and are experts in delegating. Those who tend to micromanage and are controllers have difficulty in leadership positions.
- Balance. Connected with time management is balance. Principals who work too much and are preoccupied with their jobs think they’re doing what they’re supposed to do, but either burn out, crash, or lose their effectiveness. The most effective principals have a hobby, spend time with family and friends regularly, and are able to give their brains the space and time needed to process all of the work they do the rest of the time.
- Support Network. For new principals, the winning formula is: 1:1 leadership coaching on a regular basis; regular and consistent participation in a cohort of peers; real-time feedback from the supervisor of principals throughout the year; and finally, a supportive environment from the system level.
Thanks for reading! This is a lot and we’ll break them down one at at time over the next few posts. ~MW
Here’s a link to the School Leaders Network 2014 Report: https://connectleadsucceed.org/churn_the_high_cost_of_principal_turnover