3 Key Characteristics of Successful School Leaders

We are living in an age of educational cynicism. It is becoming increasingly difficult to lead in these times. In order to cultivate success as a Principal you must first acknowledge that it isn’t all about you. Success is contingent on the relationship between you and the school staff. They have to agree, through their actions, to follow you. It’s one thing for them to say it and nod their heads during a building staff meeting. It’s much more important for them to demonstrate their faith in you by actively following your lead.

Work on developing the following three key characteristics to be a successful school leader.


A quick look at Google gives us a good working definition. Being principled simply means acting in accordance with morality and showing recognition of right and wrong. Your staff needs to trust you and know that you stand for something. Your words and actions should be aligned and demonstrate that you’re willing to adhere to your beliefs even when you’re uncomfortable. Being principled is one of the key pillars of being a great school leader.


In this context we are not talking about the political definition of being progressive. We’re talking about the ability to envision the future, to think two and three steps ahead. As the building principal you should be aware of how state and federal policies will eventually trickle down into your district and your building. You must know the path you’re on and the final destination and begin to plan for the hurdles that will inevitably spring up. Most importantly you need to listen to your staff and begin to weave their dreams and goals within yours. In that way they can join with you in your journey to the future.


Enthusiasm Unknown To Mankind“—This quote from University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh encapsulates this characteristic. As the Principal, it is your obligation to bring that enthusiasm and excitement about the future every single day. Your staff and the students look to you to set the tone. When you’re optimistic in times of difficulty they will be too. If you’re looking and acting like you can’t wait for the next school break why should they continue to have high expectations? It’s your job to lift them up with a smile, an encouraging word or a kind gesture.

These three key characteristics of success, being principled, progressive and passionate are a great foundation on which to build.

What other characteristics must be developed if you want to be a dynamic principal? Leave your thoughts below and like and share this article with your colleagues.

For more tips check out my website theprincipalentrepreneur.com


Feature image courtesy of Flickr, clement127.

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