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Leadership advice for new Principals and Heads of School.

Leadership advice for new Principals and Heads of School.

Starting as a new Principal or Head of School is both exciting and challenging whether it is your first principalship ever, or you have taken on an international school leadership role. I hope you are ready to enjoy an exhilarating and stimulating learning curve.

  1. Start by building trust and confidence with your school community.  Be confident and approachable. Spend time to learn the school’s culture, mission and vision, especially if you are working into international education as you want to be inclusive of all cultures. Be visible, ask questions, value what you see and give praise for effective teaching and learning practices.
  2. Develop authentic professional relationships with students, staff and parents. Listen carefully to what they are saying to you. Always show you are interested and try to discover if there is an underlying problem or issue that you or your team can solve. Immediate action taken to solve problems is always seen as positive by the school community.
  3. Remember that you are responsible for everything that happens in your school. Don’t use ‘blame’ in any situation, instead ask yourself  “What is my responsibility with this problem and what strategic thinking or strategic actions can I take to improve the situation?”
  4. Understand that the bottom line in any school is learning and the #1 reason you are there is for the students. Make decisions based on what is best for the students and student learning.
  5. Develop effective teams; look for unseen talents in your teachers and utilize them. Empower formal and informal leaders. Trust and delegate responsibility.
  6. Establish a professional learning community in your school and always model learning. Research best practices for 21st Century teaching and learning and ensure the school has a professional development plan in place for teachers and parents. Quality teaching is the best way to improve student learning so help your teachers be the absolute best they can be.
  7. Ensure you focus on what is important rather than what is urgent every day. Research the school’s strategic plan and focus on what needs to be achieved to improve student learning including student engagement, student motivation and student well-being.
  8. In your first month, collaborate with your executive team to create a one-year action plan based on the school’s strategic plan. Plan 90-day reviews, celebrate your successes and reschedule those goals that were not achieved. It’s ok to be agile and flexible as long as you focus on what it most important.
  9. Surround yourself with “can-do”, forward thinking people. Do not be afraid to employ people more intelligent than you or with a different personality or learning style to you. Different thinkers often see issues/solutions from different perspectives, which can be very helpful.
  10. Define your own personal and professional goals each year. Revisit these goals weekly to keep you focused.  Include health, fitness, rest, renewal and planned adventures in your personal goals as these will help you be alert, focused and creative. You can’t lead others if you can’t lead yourself!
  11. Consider enlisting the support of a mentor who you admire and trust. It can be lonely at the top!
  12. Remember your ultimate goal is to leave the school in a better place than you found it. Be strategic, work with your school board to create a new strategic plan to drive the school successfully into the future.

If you would like support in your leadership role contact Maxine at thinkstrategicforschools.com.


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