Leadership—“Your Image, Some Reflective Wishes”
Recently, I have spent some time reflecting on my time as a principal. Before moving to Central Office, I spent 15 years as a principal in both a middle school and a high school. Both of these experiences were very different, yet quite rewarding. Overall, I think, most students and staff thought I was a fairly good principal. I know I had my share of flaws and made some mistakes along the way, but at the end of the day, I think using today’s jargon, I would be considered an effective principal. On a daily basis I brought energy and enthusiasm to my school and always gave extra as far as my time was concerned. I rarely, if ever missed a building event. I was committed and professional. I was promoted ultimately and completed a contract as the district’s Superintendent. However, as I reflect, I wrestle with a whole host of “would haves, should haves, and could haves.” Listed below are some of those thoughts. If you are a practicing or aspiring principal, I urge you to personalize these thoughts and perhaps make them part of your standard operating procedure.
I wish I would have…,
- been a better communicator who was more open and approachable and followed up with people in a more timely fashion.
- done a better job celebrating each person’s individual successes and more importantly acknowledged their hard work. It is important for you, as principal, to be cognizant of the events that you do celebrate.
- been more aware of my non-verbal cues and how body language affected people. I also would have smiled and laughed a lot more.
- provided more honest feedback to people in an appropriate manner working to be candid and truthful in a non-hurtful way. This is a skill every principal needs to practice. I am also aware of the unintentional harm done to both teachers and to the students that they teach by not being more direct and forthright. Some people just should not be teachers no matter how “nice” they might be. I know I kept some people on staff, for all of the wrong reasons.
- been more respectful of instructional time and done a better job protecting that time from all of those needless interruptions.
- done a better job of soliciting input from an inclusive cross section of the school community before making decisions. This certainly would have provided better ownership for initiatives that we undertook.
- been 100% present for each conversation that I had with someone. All too often I would be carrying on a conversation with someone and thinking about something I had to do or a meeting that was about to take place.
- done a better job of communicating my academic agenda to everyone which would have enabled us to focus on it in a laser like fashion.
- been more inspirational and more of a team builder for those staff members that came to work every day disengaged.
- done a better job prioritizing what is really important to do. I think of how much time I wasted and time I wasted of my staff doing meaningless things. We tend to respect those things that we inspect. Let us inspect what is important.
Today’s article was not a catharsis for me. I want it to be a lesson to those principals and those aspiring principals to not fall into some of the traps that I entered. Navigating your career in educational administration is a minefield. Around every corner is a bomb waiting to explode. For whatever reason, I was never taught these things in “Principal’s School.” Let me assure you that your success or failure will be the result of your people skills and your ability to build and sustain relationships. Take a moment to reflect and think about how people see you as a leader. What image do you portray?
Over the next several months, we will explore some of these ideas in greater depth. For now, however, it gives you something to think about.
10 Key Word to remember:
Communication, Celebration, Cues, Feedback, Time, Input, Presence, Agenda, Inspire and Prioritize.