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Woo Hoo you’ve just accepted a new position as a 21st Century Principal. You’re excited, super enthusiastic and bounding with innovative ideas but …

… every now and then you feel just a little bit anxious too.

How do I know?

Because I’ve just accepted a new Head of School position and that’s exactly how I feel. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s how many other new principals and heads of school feel, regardless of whether it’s a principalship of a small primary school or international school leadership after completing an international education masters degree, so you’re certainly not on your own.

Whenever I’m aware of concerns, worries or doubts sneaking into my mind I take immediate action. Taking action is a positive strategy to get back on track.

I’ve listed 13 actions below that I use and you might find them helpful too.

  1. Your new role as a 21st Century Principal requires you to empower others and make many decisions wisely. Schools are complex places, so make the time over the weekend to reflect on and write down your personal values. They will guide you in how you deal with people and decisions using integrity and honesty.


  1. Building trust and confidence in your school community is paramount.  Be confident and approachable. Spend time to learn the school’s culture, mission and vision. These too will guide you in making the best decisions for your school. Be visible, ask questions, value what you see and give praise for effective 21st century teaching and learning practices.


  1. Work on improving your Emotional Intelligence. Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management are crucial skills in establishing caring, professional relationships with teachers, students, parents and board members. Listen carefully to others. 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.


  1. Be inspiring! Address teachers, students and parents with speeches about noble educational possibilities, highlighting the school’s vision and mission. Create an enthusiasm and optimism to work together in creating future directions for the school. Use John Kotter’s ideas about leadership in the 21st century and creating a high sense of urgency around a big opportunity. The future is all about possibilities and opportunities. Make them happen at your school.


  1. Never forget to recognise and value the past. Make the time to learn all that has gone on at the school before you arrived. Learn about the traditions, initiatives, successes and failures of the school. This will provide you with a firm basis to initiate successful change and innovation.


  1. 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?”


  1. 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 21st century learners at all times. Empower your students to be leaders, give them a voice and listen to their ideas and initiatives; they are our future leaders.


  1. Develop highly effective innovative teams. Empower formal and informal leaders. Trust and delegate responsibility. Establish Professional Learning Teams as vehicles to develop change and innovation at your school. Always value the actions of your teachers and make a point of thanking them regularly.


  1. 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 and prepare students for their future so help your teachers be their absolute best.


  1. 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.


  1. Surround yourself with “can-do”, forward thinking people. Do not be afraid to employ highly intelligent, creative people or people with a different personality or learning style to you. Different thinkers often see issues/solutions from different perspectives, which is very effective for innovation and problem solving.


  1. Define your 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!


  1. Remember you are a 21st Century Principal and 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 an innovative new 21st century strategic plan to drive the school successfully into the future.


If you would like to learn more about being a successful 21st Century Principal why not attend my next workshop in Bangkok or sign up to my new online course. Click here for workshop registration or here to learn more about my new online course.


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