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Each October, educators across the country acknowledge the work of their school principals, some of the most important leaders in a school district. For those who serve in a district leadership position, identifying strong principals should be one of your highest priorities.  

Below are some qualities to look for in a principal:  

  • The “IT” Factor – Look for leaders who own the room. They change the energy the moment they enter and set a tone on their campus that inspires others to follow. They achieve success that is sustainable by involving their staff who perform better simply by being exposed to their “it” factor.
  • The “Tuning Fork” – An effective school leader must exude the right energy. The tone and energy for school leadership and staff is set every day by the campus principal. Effective leaders set a standard for excellence.  They are calm, steady and dependable in all matters. In every situation, no matter how difficult, a “tuning fork” leader can be counted on to consistently model a poised disposition, and this predictability is key to building an effective team.
  • Fair but Firm Leader – Look for leaders who don’t shy away from making difficult decisions, especially as it relates to staffing and personnel changes that are in the best interest of students. While they place a high value on building relationships, they also prioritize results, and have the courage to make difficult decisions and changes, when needed. 
  • Data-Driven Decision Makers – A great principal is not afraid to dive into the data for decision-making.  School leaders who are willing to sit down with grade level teams as they dig into assessment data will win the respect of teachers and support personnel who are charged with helping students move the needle academically over the course of the school year.  
  • Accountability Seeker – The best principals will actively seek out feedback, input and constructive feedback. They hold themselves to high standards.  Strong leaders want to be evaluated and receive feedback from their supervisors. As a district leader, how can you expect a principal to hold their teachers and staff accountable if they aren’t willing to model this characteristic?
  • Great communicators and collaborators – Top principals communicate effectively with multiple stakeholders and understand the number one rule of communication – knowing their audience. They also listen first. Principals are in contact with students, staff, parents and community members, and having the ability to communicate and share information appropriately is the key to success. Communicating the goals for the school and building a shared vision help shape a school’s atmosphere and culture.  

This October, join me in celebrating the great principals who are committed to the success of students and schools across the country. Thank them for their dedication and willingness to work toward the common goal of helping students learn and grow. Most importantly, thank them for being everyday heroes and making student success their priority.