Over the years, we’ve spoken to dozens of teachers and asked them to tell us what made their principal an excellent leader. Some described small, but meaningful gestures that made them feel appreciated. One teacher told us how her principal would leave the office an hour early on snowy days, bundle up, and head out to the staff parking lot to scrape car windows. Others described the way in which their principals provided feedback or how they would receive unexpected thank-you notes in their mailboxes.
Excellent leaders lead in a myriad of ways, but according to Neila Connons, author of If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students, there are a few characteristics excellent leaders share that set them apart from the rest.
According to Connons, excellent leaders have:
The ability to care and be concerned for others
Before anyone can make a difference they must care. The best schools are based on the premise that no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. The leader of a school is instrumental in defining, developing, and designing a climate of care. From the moment you walk in the front door of a school, symbols of care must be prevalent throughout. It is the people, practices, positives, and performances that characterize the “caring-ness” of a school. An effective leader serves as the CARE police.
The desire to be successful
Effective leaders are persistently in search of ways to improve, grow, and strengthen. Success begets success. Consequently, in surroundings where leaders are focused on pleasant results, outcomes are frequently rewarding to everyone.
The ability to handle stress
Stress is an element of life and it depends on how one handles this stress that makes or breaks a situation. Successful leaders respond to stress rather than react to it.
A general feeling of good health
Anyone who decides to take on a leadership position must realize the importance of good health. Our health is like sleep—we don’t miss it until we are deprived of it. Valuable leaders recognize the importance of cherishing the mind, body, and spirit.
The ability to think logically
The best leaders take the time to look at every decision with care, commitment, and connections. They take time to reflect and always ask themselves, “How will this affect others?”
The ability to have fun
Anyone who embarks upon a mission of leadership in education today must be able to have fun. Education is a tough business; it requires stamina and concentration. Therefore, the best leaders are those who have a great sense of humor and never let a day go by without laughing.