There are many things I didn’t learn in grad school. Like many positions, so much of what I know about being a Principal was learned on the job. In particular, I remember how little I knew about dealing with personnel. How tough should the “boss” be? How much personal separation should the Principal have with his staff? To what extent should the leader know and care about the out of school, personal aspects of each staff member’s life? When should the rules be bent or should the rules ever be bent?
The answers to these questions cannot be answered easily but the secret to success in any leadership position exists in the relationships we form with our staff. More specifically:
- See your staff as your “classroom”. Years ago in my first Principalship, a master teacher made this comparison for me for the first time. Truly, a faculty has all of the differentiated needs that a typical public school classroom might. There are those teachers who can “go with the flow” and improvise (I call them “jazz players”) and those who prefer a script and don’t deal with change as easily (I name them “classical players”). This jazz vs. classical spectrum is not a bad thing to have for a school. Diversity helps everyone grow just like a classroom of kids.
- Care for your teachers. It’s important to show genuine regard for each of your staff members and to do your best to “show the love” evenly. Remember birthdays, try to recall family details, and yet respect the privacy of teachers who want to reveal very little.
- Be ready and willing to ask for forgiveness. Be honest with your staff when you make mistakes. It’s endearing to colleagues when they see a leader who doesn’t assume moral superiority over everyone else.
- Don’t take things personally. You will not receive daily kudos for your hard work, but it’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets credit.
Our job requires a diverse skill set. We have to be organized, solid at reading and writing, strong at manipulating data, and skilled in using technology. But if there is one key to success, it’s in forming the trusting relationships with our adult classroom.