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I’m sitting in the Dubrovnik Hotel in Zagreb enjoying the last of my European Summer on the Croatian beaches thinking about my friends who are school leaders or aspiring school leaders getting ready for the 2017/2018 school year.

Millions of children and teenagers around the world start a new school year in August or September. It’s an exciting time!

As a Principal and Head of School I’ve always loved this time of the year. However, I’ve learnt that it’s always wise to avoid simple mistakes to make your start to the new school year awesome. Here are my 5 tips. I hope they help you too.

  1. Everyone’s excited! It’s great to get back together with your team and talk about holidays, adventures and even disasters. Don’t make the mistake of complaining, gossiping or blaming. Read Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles and take 100% responsibility for changing your school to meet the needs of 21st Century learners.
  2. Don’t give your time away too freely. Reconsider the Open Door Policy! This was a great idea in the 20th Century, but it really doesn’t work today. Giving away your time willy-nilly to others means you are not in control of your time and you are not focusing on the school’s most important priorities. Certainly make yourself available to your school community but do it strategically. Block out the times in your day and weekly calendar to focus on your Strategic Plan goals. NEVER cancel these times unless it is a real emergency. Schedule alternative times during the week for people to make appointments to see you if they feel the need. Empower others to solve their problems or come to you with a  ‘suggested solution’ to discuss. Encouraging ‘power to’ rather than ‘power over’ is an awesome 21st Century Leadership skill. Remember, the school community depends on you being a strategist who is always focused on growing the school to best cater for Gen Z and Gen Alpha.
  3. Don’t make the mistake of meeting for the sake of having regular meetings. Plan meetings for a strategic purpose or to develop professional learning outcomes, not to disseminate information. Your teachers will appreciate this and see you as a learner, which is so important in the 21st Century!
  4. Don’t focus on what is urgent. Basically this is crisis management and you need to stop doing it fast. Not only is this not showing leadership for your school, you will burn yourself and possibly others out. Focus on what is most important. Manage your distractions! Get organized, schedule your priorities, delegate, supervise, create a Stop Doing list and breathe. Arianna Huffington provides great advice in her book Thrive. 
  5. DO NOT worry about what you didn’t get done each day. Always focus on what you did get done and celebrate that. Only focus on 5 or 6 tasks each day and before going to sleep think of the 3 things you did get done and the 5 things you will focus on tomorrow. You will sleep much better if you do. Remember, if you did not achieve a high priority task reschedule it for first thing the very next day, or the soonest available time, and make sure you get it done. Always Think Strategically and you will be an Awesome 21st Century Principal!

If you would like to know more about challenges you will face and how to overcome them download the Think Strategic White Paper below – they are designed to help everyone from small school principals to those in international school leadership roles.

Want more tips on how to be an awesome 21st Century School Leader? Why not attend Leadership for the 21st Century Workshop at NIST Interna, or you could consider enrolling in an international education masters degree.

    Download our "Top 3 Challenges Facing School Leaders today" whitepaper and learn how to overcome them.