There are lots of things that effective principals do. See which ones you recognise, and which you’d like to aim to do more of:
- Effective principals promote the profession
Being positive and 'bigging up' teaching: these principals are passionate about teaching and learning no matter what the politics. They make lecturers feel they’re in a profession one to be proud of.
- Effective principals love to talk...and listen
Principals enjoy having informal conversations with staff and listening to their stories, concerns, experiences and finding out more about what makes each person tick. They have their finger on the pulse of every staff member and will know their professional and personal needs.
- Effective principals consult their staff
Although the buck stops with the principal, trust and collaboration are at the heart of the college where everyone is involved in open and direct conversations.
- Effective principals secure discretionary effort
Only principals that have positive relationships with their staff find that staff go the extra mile. To achieve this, they are vigilant of the generosity of their team and swiftly step in if they see someone doing too much and burning out.
- Effective principals 'eat the frog'
Colleges are busy places and there is always a 'to-do' list as long as your arm so it’s easy to get overwhelmed and procrastinate. Canny principals plan with precision and get the major tasks and 'ugly' tasks completed first. They eat the frog and make a habit of it.
- Effective principals are out and about
They visit classrooms to appreciate the pressures their staff are under. They jump at the chance to support and teach too. High-vis principals build trust and send out a clear message to everyone that you care and are 'on it'. They know the power of a simple "Good morning!" and "How are you?" combined with a genuine smile.
- Effective principals keep students safe
Principals put safeguarding at the heart of the college protecting student’s health, wellbeing and human rights and enabling them to live free from harm, abuse and neglect.
- Effective principals are the top of a great marketing team for the college
They make time to give the tours to appraise all potential teaching talent so the right person is selling the benefits. These principals are always attracting the best staff for their students.
- Effective principals welcome challenge
Principals who consult their staff also invite challenge and aren't afraid to have difficult and tricky conversations. Controversial issues aren't avoided but discussed and debated professionally without ego or any empire building agendas. As Gill (2018) states, successfully having difficult conversations "creates positive change, quickly and kindly."
- Effective principals prize development
Principals want their staff to do well and succeed and so are always looking for opportunities to feedback, feedforward and create conditions of growth and improvement. They promote a culture of reflection and a determination to be the best and 100% of staff are capable.
- Effective principals plan social time
Principals know that all work and no play makes their staff as dull as dishwater so they organise regular opportunities to get together and let off some steam beyond the college gates with a 'no work talk' rule!
- Effective principals show appreciation
Principals know that the little things matter and so they go out of their way to make someone's day. They cultivate random acts of kindness across the whole college community so that everyone feels valued and knows what it means to give thanks.
- Effective principals limit meetings
Principals know that teachers hate staff meetings so never meet when an email will do. They know that staff have a life, family and responsibilities outside of college. Whole staff meetings are held at sensible times, with no AOB and a clear cut-off point. Meetings aren't always held indoors or on-site either but they are always relevant, timely and productive.
- Effective principals are social butterflies
Times have changed and so has the role of any company’s (or college’s) figure principal. Effective principals now have a digital presence as part of their great marketing campaign to attract the best teaching staff and funding for their college.
- Effective principals champion students
Great principals will always champion the rights of students and fight their battles so that their needs are met and they can enjoy college opportunities. They never give up on a student and they advance equality of opportunity.
- Effective principals are veracious
Principals always aim to do the right thing for the right reasons. They are open and honest and they do what they say they will do. They demonstrate utmost integrity and honesty by being transparent and accountable and realise that their relationship with parents and other stakeholders is based on trust.
- Effective principals are innovative
They are champions of progression and technology. Actively harnessing new ways to save admin time and achieve much more for less money when it comes to back-office functions like recruitment, for example, by proactively advertising for great staff all the year round via low-cost, high-impact systems. They are never afraid to try something new and challenge the status quo.
- Effective principals are responsible
Principals take responsibility for what they do and work with their staff to put their college community at the heart of all their endeavours.
- Effective principals perform
Principals aim for the highest possible standards and get the best out of all the resources they have. They are professional, take pride in what they do and inspire others by delivering clear standards of leadership and management.
- Effective principals work in a team
Principals value the contributions others can make and cultivate working together as one team rather than in silos. They shape the future and make a difference by working collaboratively.
- Effective principals are SMART recruiters.
They are embracing the latest methods and strategies like the clever candidate attraction tools to beat the other colleges to recruiting the best lecturers.
Recruiting for your college? Find out more at here
- Effective principals follow the Nolan principles
Principals know what the Nolan Principles are and ensure their staff know too. They make sure everyone displays selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
- Effective principals are good administrators
Principals aim to get things right, they are student focused, they are open and accountable, act fairly and seek continuous improvement.
- Effective principals are passionate
Principals inspire their community; their motivation and attitude is contagious and they are relentlessly positive and have high expectations. They facilitate, influence and empower.
- Effective principals promote CPD
Personal and professional growth is key to the success of the college so principals will ensure that CPD opportunities meets the needs of staff. They know one size does not fit all so strive to connect staff to what they need to increase their skills and knowledge.
- Effective principals know their students
Principals try hard to find out more about their student’s backgrounds. They provide strength and stability as a caring adult that students respect not fear.
- Effective principals get rid of obstacles
Principals know that by removing barriers then their staff will work more effectively. They sign-up to a Fair Workload Charter and have a strong and comprehensive Wellbeing Policy.
- Effective principals don't try too hard
Principals are hugely ambitious but they are realistic so don't try to be superheroes and change things overnight. They play the long-game and stay in their posts for at least five years because they know it take times to understand a college’s context. They make a lasting impact.
About the author
John is an ex-primary school teacher and Ofsted inspector who has spent the last 20 years working in the education industry as a teacher, writer and editor. John’s specialist area is primary maths but he also loves teaching science and English. John has written a number of educational and children’s books, and contributed over 1,000 articles and features to various educational bodies. John is eTeach’s school leadership and Ofsted advice guru, sharing insights on best practice for motivating and enriching a school team, as well as sharing savvy career steps for headteachers and SLT.