What are the Characteristics of an Effective School Principal?

Leann Smith
Jul 29, 2019 · 3 min read
Leann Smith Hanceville Alabama — What are the Characteristics of an Effective School Principal?

Principals have one of the most challenging jobs in the school system, but it can also be the most rewarding. The anchor of the school, the principal’s responsibilities span from budgeting to hiring quality teachers to providing a positive school culture where students can thrive.

Conecuh County Assistant Superintendent Leann Smith notes that like any difficult job, there are some individuals who are simply not equipped to handle it. The following five characteristics are essential for principals to possess if they want to effectively lead a school and allow students, faculty, and staff to do their best work:

#1 — Visible and Accessible

Effective leaders don’t hide behind paperwork and desks. They are in the hallways welcoming students in the morning, talking with teachers, and attending school sports games. And when they do have to get down to business, their door is open and welcoming.

School principals need to create an approachable persona. Students, teachers, and parents should feel comfortable approaching them and confident in the principal’s abilities to serve.

#2 — Fair and Balanced

Principals should ensure that all students and teachers abide by the same rules and procedures. They cannot allow favoritism to thrive or allow personal feelings to cloud their judgment. Most importantly, they must be consistent in their efforts to create a culture of balance and fairness.

#3 — Creative Problem Solver

Though you may have a handbook of policies and procedures, a school principal is likely to encounter new experiences every day, and a handbook can only go so far. It does not account for instances where you need to exercise good judgment, nor will you be able to anticipate every disciplinary issue that arises.

Principals are often synonymous with problem solvers and should be able to think outside the box when situations call for creativity. They should learn how to prioritize critical issues, break down issues into processes and steps, and learn from each experience that will help them to overcome similar challenges in the future.

#4 — Empowering to Others

Like a CEO of a major business, the principal carries the school toward its goals, but they cannot achieve success alone. Rather, they must empower others to make decisions, solve problems, and develop solutions that will ultimately benefit the school as a whole.

Teachers are often empowered in their own classrooms, but an effective school leader should help them extend their impact. They should be responsive when teachers or staff have suggestions on how to improve the school culture, student engagement, and parent participation. Strong leaders create strong leaders so that success can be shared.

#5 — Dedicated to Their Purpose

Being a school principal is more than a lofty title. In addition to the professional requirements of being a principal, effective leaders are dedicated to the purpose their role carries. They make decisions to support the best interests of the students. They are usually the first one to arrive and the last one to leave, setting the example of what it truly means to serve students, their families, and the community at large.

Find more on Hanceville resident Leann Smith on medium.com

Leann Smith

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Dr. Leann Smith serves as an assistant superintendent for the Conecuh County Schools in Evergreen, Alabama.

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