When Principals Have Adequate Support Schools Are More Effective

There are several reasons why some principals are successful and some struggle. The previous week’s blog posts have explored the first seven of those reasons; we conclude this series by looking at an area that ought to be a strength for all principals.

The job of principal is complex, multi-tiered, fast-paced, quickly-changing and often exhausting.  Despite it all, it’s the greatest job you’ll ever have… as long as you get the support you need to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to do it well.

To be honest with you, I’m basically amazed at two things regarding principals and support:  1) that some principals, even now in 2017, don’t have access to the support they need to be successful; and 2) some principals who have access to the support they need fail to take advantage of it. (an even bigger head-shaker)

There was a time that principals could go directly from the interview process into the principal’s office, ready for whatever may come their way and able to onboard with little to no additional support.  Here are three reasons why that isn’t the case anymore:

  1.  The Job is Too Complex To Prepare for Everything In Advance.  In olden days (the 80s, maybe the 90s?) a prospective principal candidate might be able to glean the necessary knowledge and skills in advance of taking the job.  In 2017, the job is too complex and things are changing too rapidly to thoroughly prepare in advance.
  2. The Turnover Rate is Large and Rising.  This is simple math.  We have more new principals entering the position each year.  The impact downstream is that new candidates are reaching the office of assistant principal and then principal with less experience than has been the case in the past.  An abundance of new principals signals that we are in a period when larger numbers of school leaders have less experience than their predecessors. That should mean increased efforts for principal support.  
  3. Principals ALWAYS have needed support.   We didn’t just arrive at the point where principals need support.  We’ve always been there.  Many principals throughout the years have developed their own networks of colleagues with whom to learn.  The decisions you have to make as principal are made better when you leverage the collective experience of a cohort of colleagues.  That’s not new, but what should be new is a universal commitment to supporting principals in their participation in collegial cohorts.

So what should principal support look like? Here’s a framework with a description following the graphic.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-10-13-56-am

The most effective principal support systems have four complementary components:

  1.  Peer Cohort;
  2. One-On-One Coaching; 
  3. Formative Feedback;
  4. Supportive Environment.

Principals are more effective in their work through an intentional combination of these four components.  More about how those four work together in a post next week.


This is a part of an ongoing series of Eight Reasons Why Principals are Successful…or Struggle.  Our first entries were:  1. Preparation; 2. Communication; 3. Leadership; 4. Judgment; 5. Confidence; 6. Time Management; 7. Balance.   Please look at earlier blog entries to see the series in entirety.  Thank you!

#Leadership365   /41

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