The 21st Century Principal

Recently, I wrote about what shapes my learning..  I have tied my own learning into our eportfolio vision and how it will be beneficial to students having opportunities for deep learning.  As I have thought about this, I wanted to talk about how these characteristics tie into what makes an effective, 21st century principal.

  1. Creative – An effective administrator looks at different angles to solve problems.  Sometimes meeting the needs of all students takes different approaches that have not been used before, and we have to critically think on how we can do these things.  Things such as traditional professional development plans need to be readjusted and updated to meet the needs of staff.  Continuously doing what we have always done will  yield the same results.  We have to be innovative in our practices.
  2. Communicator – An effective administrator not only communicates by sharing information through several mediums, but also is an effective listener.  It is essential that we  work to be effective communicators with all stakeholders to do what is best for kids.
  3. Critical Thinker – Many ideas come our way that seem great at first glance, or maybe not so great.  We have to look at these ideas and evaluate the long term impact on our schools and students, and how they will ultimately benefit them.  One of my mentors said to me, “there are very few emergencies” when discussing how some feel they need answers immediately.  It is essential as administrators we take all information and really think about all decisions that are made in our schools.
  4. Creates Challenge- This is not meant to mean we provide roadblocks to our staff and community (we need to do the opposite).  This is about continuously pushing forward for the sake of our students and providing ways for our staff to be continuous learners.  Once the challenge is gone from our job, are we still actively engaged? The same “flow theory” that we can use for students, should be used for our entire community.
  5. Builds Community – How do we connect others and share their strengths?  Community is not about connecting everyone, but it is connecting those to the right people.  For example, how do we build opportunities for staff to connect with others to help further their learning?  It is essential that we not only develop leaders in our school, but we give opportunities for others to see their leadership.
  6. Visionary – An effective principal has a vision of where we want our school to go to best prepare our students for their future.  It is not only essential that we are able to develop this vision, but that we are able to effectively share it with our community.
  7. Caring – Without this, none of the others matter.  Students and staff need to know that they are cared for as people and that we will do our best to look out for their best interests.  This is the foundation our schools need to be built upon.

Through my continuous learning, I see that many of the qualities we are trying to instill in our students for their future, we must instill in ourselves now.

What are your thoughts?  What did I miss?


  1. Mr. Hitch said:

    Nice job! I’m an aspiring admin and I enjoyed reading this.

    November 21, 2010
    • Thanks so much for your comment! We are glad you are joining in our learning journey as administrators.

      November 22, 2010
  2. Mark Hardeman said:

    Hey George,

    How about collaborative learner? At the end of your post your mention your own continuous learning and I believe that principals should be involved in learning constantly looking for opportunities to improve. 21st century principals will be linked to collaborative learning networks within their own buildings and through the use of social networking tools to connect with other principals and share their experiences.


    November 21, 2010
    • Great point Mark! I think that as an educator we need to be learners first. This is essential to our path, especially as school leaders. As an update, I think that would go under “Critical Thinker” as we need to really look at all of the information that comes our way and ensure we use it to meet the needs of our students.

      November 22, 2010
  3. Great post, George.

    One of my favorite themes in discussing 21st century learning is that we are all in this together, children and adults, teachers, parents, and students: we all need to embrace the challenge of our fast changing times and the requirement that we grow and learn to meet the changing demands upon us.

    We can’t, or we shouldn’t, preach the importance of learning 21st c. skills without practicing this learning ourselves; we certainly can’t (or shouldn’t) preach the importance of learning digital communications, or on-line collaboration, or digital information access and interpretation, without doing so ourselves.

    As always, George, the genuine sincerity and warmth of your humanity is present here, and it is something I really admire about your leadership, that you are so effective in communicating that warmth and that compassion for each and every member of your school community. If only I and my writing had a tenth of your EQ and empathy!

    Finally, your point about vision is especially commendable. Especially in this age, the winds buffeting us in education from all directions (see today’s NY Times!) can really knock us about if we are not clear in our convictions and sharp in our vision. Of course we need to be open-minded, but we need to work from a point of view and from a platform to hold our course steady, so I am especially appreciative of your words:” An effective principal has a vision of where we want our school to go to best prepare our students for their future. It is not only essential that we are able to develop this vision, but that we are able to effectively share it with our community.” And as an aside, aren’t we lucky to be leading in an age when blogging allows us this great new opportunity to develop and share our vision!

    with great appreciation,


    November 21, 2010
    • Jonathan,

      Your comment made my day and I appreciate your kind words. I love what you wrote about blogging as it is important that we not only “share” our vision but develop it. It is a fantastic collaborative tool. It gives us the ability to be transparent and open thinkers and often change our own learning.

      Your response to my post and your leadership is greatly appreciated. Thanks again for your contributions to all leaders and especially to “Connected Principals”.


      November 22, 2010

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