How principals become effective leaders is a complicated topic. Volumes have been written on it and while our list is far from exhaustive, we’d simply like to add to the conversation by listing three qualities of leadership that we believe are indispensable to any principal.
Becoming an effective leader: 3 indispensable qualities
Are you accessible?
In their book, The Great Workplace, Michael Burchell and Jennifer Robin give the example of a manager who rearranged her office so that she sat facing the door; she also slid her computer to the front corner of her desk. This arrangement served two purposes: first, it increased her visibility, allowing her to immediately greet her staff when they approached her office. Second, it gave her the ability to keep an eye on email—so she could respond to pressing messages—and talk to her employees at the same time. While the manager’s heart was in the right place, she hadn’t truly made herself more accessible.
Employees pay attention to how available we are to them both physically and emotionally. Responding to email or stealing quick glances from a computer screen is a distraction. The same goes for the phone. If you cannot get through a conversation without the phone ringing, consider visiting teachers in their classrooms or somewhere where you can give them undivided attention.
Are you credible?
In his book The SPEED of Trust, Stephen Covey begins his chapter on integrity with a useful analogy. In 2005, Andy Roddick and Fernando Verdasco faced off in the Italia Masters Tournament. It was in the third round and the match point was in favor of Roddick. Verdasco hit his second serve and the judge called the ball “out.” Defeated, Verdasco approached the net to congratulate Roddick, but Roddick did not reciprocate; instead, he called the umpire’s attention to a slight indention on the court proving that the ball had indeed landed “in.” The umpire was surprised, but accepted Roddick’s call, awarding the point to Verdasco.
Roddick lost the game, but he gained something far greater, credibility. Think about it this way: The next time Roddick challenges a call, it is more likely that his challenge will be respected. Why? His integrity precedes him. What does Roddick teach us? Effective leaders maintain integrity even when it is costly.
Are you humble?
Stephen Covey suggests that humble leaders are more concerned about:
- What is right than about being right
- Acting on good ideas than having the ideas
- Embracing new truth than defending an outdated position
- Building the team than exalting self
- Recognizing contribution than being recognized for making it.
Too often, humility is used interchangeably with weakness, reticence and indecision. To the contrary, humble leaders are often some of the fiercest negotiators. Why? Because they are not “caught up in bravado, manipulation, or win-lose plays.” What they are arguing for has little to do with personal gain. Humble leaders never place ego above principles and know that they only succeed with the help of others.