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BRAVO Principals...
Share Power

As a principal, there were some days when I was convinced I had no power at all. That must be why I felt so powerful the day a first grader introduced me to her mother as "Queen of the School"!

But, seriously, BRAVO principals -- principals who understand the importance of Building Relationships with Actions that Value Others -- are very aware that power, and how it is used, are, for lack of a better word, "powerful" concepts. Simply put, as principals, we cannot be truly effective if we don't empower teachers, parents, and students. We can tell our staffs all day long how much we believe in empowerment -- but if our actions do not share our power, we might as well say nothing at all.

BRAVO Principals

BRAVO is an acronym for Building Relationships with Actions that Value Others. Principals can act in many ways that value others, said Sandra Harris, author of BRAVO Principal!, and each month I will share in this column some of those ways. The ideas shared will not be directionless, busy-work activities; instead they will be tactical actions -- actions with the purposeful intent of building valued relationships with others.

Harris, an associate professor in the educational leadership program at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, is author of other titles including Best Practices of Award-Winning Elementary School Principals (Corwin Press, 2005) and seven titles for Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Her newest book, BRAVO Teacher, was just released.

How can we empower others? A moment ago I wrote that we do so by sharing our power, but, in effect, we do more than share our power -- we give it away! It was writer Noah benShea who once said, "Faith's challenge is not to believe that we will get more, but become more." I think power is another of those rare things that becomes more when we give it away.

Reflect a moment, if you will, on how and why you became a principal Most likely that happened because your principal empowered you. What did your principal do? He or she did 3 things: included you, involved you, and invited you.


If you are a principal who understands the importance of sharing power, then you know how important it is to share with others the responsibility for the growth of your school. After all, it is not your school. Rather, the school is a community.

One way in which principals include others is to share knowledge with teachers, parents, and students. In other words, we let them know why we are doing what we are doing. That builds a climate of mutual trust and respect.

Including faculty by sharing responsibility for the success of student learning means we acknowledge that every faculty member at our school is a leader. We give teachers the freedom to teach. Instead of micro managing, we delegate responsibilities -- to teachers, to parents, to students. We trust them to accomplish the task, and then we support them with timely follow-up. (After all, we still need to inspect what we expect.)


Empowering principals involve faculty, parents, and students in problem solving. Yes, it's true that most schools have lots of committees -- but BRAVO principals actually listen to the committees' suggestions and, whenever possible, implement their ideas. That type of involvement acknowledges others' expertise and the importance of considering a problem from multiple points of view -- which ultimately enables us to gather as much information as possible in the process.

When empowering principals involve others in making decisions, good decisions get made.

Empowering principals invite others to fully participate. We invite faculty, staff, parents, and students to share their ideas and their concerns. We invite them to become fully engaged in the school's successes. For example, if there is a problem at school involving the cafeteria, empowering principals invite the cafeteria manager to attend the next faculty meeting. If there is a problem with the school building and grounds, we invite the maintenance supervisor to a faculty or student council meeting. We invite student leadership to participate in staff meetings from time to time. We invite parents and other individuals in the community to share ideas. We serve coffee and a cookie -- and we listen to what they have to say. What do they like about the school? What are their concerns?

Extending an invitation to different groups within the larger school community empowers everyone as it increases trust in school leadership.

Principals who share their power acknowledge these three things:

No more I. No more Me. No more My Teachers, My Students, My School.

Instead, effective principals say

Yes to Us. Yes to We. Yes to Our Teachers, Our Students, Our School.

If we are true BRAVO principals, we share our power by including others in being responsible for student success and solving problems. We invite others to fully participate, and all our actions demonstrate that we value others. As we connect with others in this important way, we build relationships that result in a more positive school experience for everyone in the learning community.

Article by Sandra Harris
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World