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Thinking About the
Traits of a Good Principal


"People do not always expect a principal to solve their problems. Many times, they just need someone who will listen to their concerns. An effective administrator knows when it is appropriate to shut up and just listen." (Bill Myers)

When teachers always keep kids -- and the impact of their decisions on kids -- as their focus, the ultimate answers to many problems become more obvious. Keeping kids as the focus of every decision is "the one trait that makes a stand-out principal. That might sound trite, but I have used that statement as my guiding force for years and it has never steered me wrong. I coach my teachers with this strategy, and they tell me that it keeps them focused on what their job is really all about." (Jan Fortman)

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Straightforward -- but not simple -- question: What is the most important trait of a strong school leader? Click to join the conversation. Let's see how many different traits principals bring up.

Principals don't have all the answers, but a principal who is always learning, a principal who is constantly growing, is likely to be a strong principal. A principal who is always learning models what he or she hopes the whole school staff will become -- a learning community. "I think if you view yourself as a learner, you are freed from being the sole dispenser of knowledge and wisdom. You are also freed from feeling that you have to provide all the answers. Hopefully, that engenders a spirit of 'I'm not sure about that, let's work on it together.' That kind of spirit benefits the entire school." (Helene Dykes)

"A good leader offers all staff people the opportunity to improve. They [have the ability to] bring out the best in the entire faculty by making marginal teachers better and better teachers the best." (Sylvia Hooker)

"One principal -- no matter how skilled, how child-focused, how positive -- cannot possibly create an excellent educational environment for every child in the school without the teachers. By demonstrating that I trust their judgment, have confidence in them, will acquire whatever resources they need, and will support them in their work, teachers will do their best and kids will benefit." (Dr. Lolli Haws)

Take Five more to read this entire article from Education World's "Principal Files" series:
"Good Principals: What Traits Do They Share?"
(Education World -- May 3, 1999)

ABC Book of the Principal's Job