What is the role of a school principal? - Better Leaders Better Schools (2023)

This post is designed to take a fresh and innovative look at the role of a school principal. You might even say it’s an uncommon approach to the role, but that’s what we do at Better Leaders Better Schools.

A traditional approach to the principalship will get you the same results, but that’s not why you are here.

Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing yet expecting different results.

You want to be different. Better. So you challenge tradition if you want to level up education.

I love the imagery of the ripple effect. A stone dropped into water continues to make waves long after the initial action is gone. What is the wave you want to intentionally create? How can you do that in your role as a principal?

What if you realized that your role was to be a catalyst. The fact is, change is happening within your organization. Your presence accelerates that change and it’s up to you if it’s in either a positive or negative direction.

That said, here is a modern take on your role.

It’s meant to get you to think about serving as a school leader in an out-of-the-box fashion. If you get value you from what you read today, please share on social media. I also created an infographic that synthesizes the main points of today’s post as well for you to download.

The role of a school principal in 5 parts

#1: You are a Ruckus Maker

I call members of our community, Ruckus Makers.

This means that you are an innovative leader making change happen in education. You don’t do things the ways they have always been done because there is value in iterating and making things better.

Better might mean you eliminate things you are doing that no longer serve your community.

Or better might look like taking a leap of faith and protecting those already innovating.

Sometimes you can get there in just two words, like “What If?”

However you decide to make change happen, own it. Your community needs your leadership. Go make a ruckus!


#2: You are a Chief Encouragement Officer

Culture is everything and cultures do not thrive without great effort and intention. Leaders I coach have loved both The Happiness Advantage and The Culture Code when they consider building the school of their dreams.

An integral part of a thriving culture is acknowledgment and connection.

Three questions that everyone on your staff is asking themselves daily:

  • Am I doing a good job?
  • Does my work matter?
  • Is my work appreciated?

Effective feedback is crucial here. Staff appreciation also matters.

And my best tip you can take action on is to do a bucket list with your staff.


If you have the courage to get to know your colleagues on a personal level and take action making their dreams come true, I promise you will build a remarkable school.

There is nothing more encouraging than being seen and heard, which is another way of saying “being fully known.” If your staff believes that you care about them as individuals, they will work hard to make your vision for the school come true.

If you help them realize their dreams, they will help you realize yours.

Reciprocity, connection, and empathy are beautiful things.


#3: You are a Creative Visionary

I love sharing this quote by Seneca:

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable”

As a leader, you must set the course.

One of your most important roles of a school principal is setting the vision. Without it, you can have 50 people rowing in 50 different directions.

Talk about frustrating!

If you are dissatisfied with any aspect of your school, the culprit very well can be a lack of a clear and compelling vision. In reality, this is the most commonly overlooked aspect of a principal’s role.

Many schools have an unimpressive vision statement. Not only are they generic, but they are also uninspiring.

This post investigates what is wrong with most schools’ visions and offers a free video course on how to create a better and more meaningful school vision.

Working in education gives leaders a distinct advantage to leverage. The work is inherently meaningful. Tap into that.

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

― Norman Vincent Peale

If you love this graphic share it on social media!

The Modern Role of a Principal: https://www.betterleadersbetterschools.com/what-is-the-role-of-a-school-principal - Better Leaders Better Schools @alienearbud #blbs #RuckusMaker #education Click To Tweet

#4: You are a Champion of Diversity

Diversity has always mattered, but the murder of George Floyd really has awakened white consciousness on this issue across the globe. I can’t say all consciousness because people of color are always aware of racism. It is a point of privilege for whites to forget that it exists.

Yes, race matters in terms of diversity, but consider a variety of aspects: gender, sexual orientation, body size, faith, gender identity, etc.

You can also think of diversity in terms of worldviews, how people make decisions, and the different strengths they bring to the table.

Not only can you upgrade your school by reviewing your curriculum, collectively you can level up by making the right hiring decisions. The default is to hire people that look, think, and act like you. This is a mistake. We falsely believe that we are hiring for a cultural fit, but in reality, we are hiring because of unconscious biases we all have.

Investigate all your hires and get curious about why you easily pass on some applicants. They must just have a different way of thinking that is desperately needed to make your team better.


#5: You are a Capacity Builder

Build your people. Don’t worry if they get so good they will leave because of increased opportunity. You should be proud of that.

If you’re worried about losing your people because of developing them, think about it in the inverse. What is the cost of not developing your people and retaining them?

Whether it is staff or students, the best leaders look for ways that their people can stretch and grow. You can do that simply by asking how they would like to grow. Inevitably some will respond, “I don’t know.” As a leader, there is tremendous power in calling out the gifts we notice in people. A simple, “I really like how you do ‘X’ will you help lead this initiative?” is a powerful tactic.

This works for both staff and students.

It’s magic when you get your students involved in leading campus initiatives. And when you build the capacity of those you serve, don’t look solely at your stars. You’ll miss opportunities to unlock the potential within your organization if you only stick with A-players and A-students. Bring all sorts of students and staff into leadership opportunities.

Case in point: one of the worst academically performing students I have ever taught was also the best senior rally emcee I have ever witnessed. He didn’t fit the traditional school model, but he thrived as an entertainer and story-teller. If I only looked at my top-performing students to lead the senior rally we all would have missed out. He held the attention of 900 staff and students in the palm of his hand.

Your people’s capacity matters, but don’t forget about yourself!

Developing your own capacity includes:

  • Building your mental models
  • Making better decisions
  • And reading a lot, especially books outside education.


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What is the role of a school principal? - Better Leaders Better Schools? ›

Principals play a crucial role in supporting and empowering teachers in their daily work. They set the tone for the school culture, ensuring a safe, inclusive, and positive learning environment for both students and staff.

What is the role of the principal in leadership? ›

[The principal's work] includes organizational design and development. It includes instructional leadership and the development of learning opportunities for kids and teachers. It includes change management, moving an organization from where it is to where it needs to be.

What are the 5 duties of a principal? ›

The role of a principal is to provide strategic direction in the school system. Principals develop standardized curricula, assess teaching methods, monitor student achievement, encourage parent involvement, revise policies and procedures, administer the budget, hire and evaluate staff and oversee facilities.

How do principals improve schools? ›

Principals maintain a collective focus on school goals. They coordinate work within and across teams to facilitate collective efforts. They also make sure that solutions are shared and applied school-wide. by empowering and coordinating the work of teachers and school staff around shared goals.

What makes a principal an effective leader? ›

More broadly, highly effective principals are skilled in leadership, relationship-building, organization, communication, and goal setting. A principal's leadership responsibilities include planning, implementing, supporting, advocating, and monitoring, according to assessments of school leadership.

What are the 4 duties of a principal? ›

  • Manage school activities and staff, including teachers and support personnel.
  • Establish and oversee class schedules.
  • Develop, implement, and maintain curriculum standards.
  • Counsel and discipline students.
  • Observe teachers and evaluate their performance.
Oct 4, 2022

What is the importance of principal leadership in schools? ›

Managing and developing people.

They must be able to communicate effectively, which contributes to building shared expectations, cohesion, and commitment to the school. Effective principals work to cultivate trust, which supports confidence in the school's leader and sets the stage for any collaborative efforts.

What is the principal responsible? ›

Principal responsibility means having the primary obligation for the direct provision of management services provided to a common interest community.

What is considered a principal role? ›

A principal in a company is typically the owner, founder or chief executive officer (CEO) of a company. In some situations, the principal might be someone who owns most of the company's equity and is responsible for making big business decisions.

How can a principal support teachers? ›

10 Ways a Principal Can Support Teachers
  • Listen to the Teachers. ...
  • Provide the Best Resources Possible. ...
  • Offer Recognition. ...
  • Improve Collaboration. ...
  • Monitor Teacher Burnout. ...
  • Support Their Decisions. ...
  • Encourage Growth. ...
  • Be Consistent.
Dec 23, 2022

What motivates school principals? ›

"The main reason I want to become a principal is to mentor faculty so students learn from teachers and other staff who feel supported. I want to help them follow best practices that positively impact learning outcomes. I want to use my administrative and educational experience to train new leaders.

What are the keys to a successful principalship? ›

Successful principals readily commit by engaging, inspiring, and leading students, faculty, and staff toward developing a positive communal spirit and collaborative connection. School leaders who empower others inspire them as well.

How does a principal affect a school? ›

3. Effective principals orient their practice toward instructionally focused interactions with teachers, building a productive school climate, facilitating collaboration and professional learning communities, and strategic personnel and resource management processes. 4.

What is the most important quality of a principal? ›

Effective principals should use their understanding to create a relentless focus on teaching and learning, holding themselves and the teachers accountable for providing high-quality instruction for students every day. Teacher observation, student data, and coaching are critical tools for the effective principal.

What are four 4 characteristics of effective leaders? ›

A good leader should have integrity, self-awareness, courage, respect, empathy, and gratitude. They should be learning agile and flex their influence while communicating and delegating effectively. See how these key leadership qualities can be learned and improved at all levels of your organization.

What are 4 characteristics of effective leadership? ›

Effective leaders are competent, skilled, secure, and considerate. These leaders find time for everyone; they are genuine and authentic in their communications and actions.

What should a new principal do first? ›

Advice for New Principals: The 4 Things to Focus on First
  • Learn your job. First-time principals likely have experience as assistant principals, but taking over a campus amid a pandemic comes with a significant learning curve. ...
  • Learn your school. ...
  • Learn your district. ...
  • Learn your community.
Sep 20, 2022

What are the three main duties owed to the principal by the agent? ›

Agents generally have the following duties to the principal: Loyalty, Care, Obedience, and Accounting.

How does leadership affects the performance of the school? ›

School leaders, particularly principals, have a key role to play in setting direction and creating a positive school culture including the proactive school mindset, and supporting and enhancing staff motivation and commitment needed to foster improvement and promote success for schools in challenging circumstances.

What are the leadership strengths of a principal? ›

As a principal, you will need to be an excellent communicator, both in speaking and in writing. This includes being able to communicate your vision and goals clearly to others, as well as listen to and understand the needs of your staff and students.

What is the best leadership style for school principals? ›

The authoritative leadership style is one of the most effective in education. These leaders are fair and consistent. They also have high expectations for their students and expect them to meet those expectations. They also provide feedback to their students so they can improve their performance.

What is the school principal as leader? ›

A school principal is a primary leader in a school building. A good leader always leads by example. A principal should be positive, enthusiastic, have his hand in the day-to-day activities of the school, and listen to what his constituents are saying.

What are the rights and duties of principal? ›

A principal has a right to sue his agent for damages in case of breach of duty by the agent. The duties of agents are: As per section 211, an agent shall act within the scope of authority that his principal confers upon him. Also, he shall strictly follow the directions of his principal.

What obligations are principals liable for? ›

A principal owes certain contractual duties to his/her agent. A principal's primary duties to his/her agent include: To compensate the agent as agreed; and. To indemnify and protect the agent against claims, liabilities, and expenses incurred in the agent correctly discharging the duties assigned by the principal.

What is the meaning of school principal? ›

Principal as an adjective means "the most important." As a noun, it refers to someone in a leading position, or the executive officer of a school.

What is the difference between principal role and lead role? ›

Principal roles are lead roles. In Actors' Equity, however, leads and featured performers both receive "principal" contracts. On the other hand, it seems performers use the term "featured" to refer not only to supporting leads, but also chorus parts that get a solo dance, or a few speaking lines.

What is a managing principal? ›

A managing principal holds a leadership role within a company, and in some cases, you are also an owner or shareholder in the business. As a managing principal, your duties focus on client relations. In an investment business, for example, this means your career focuses on investor relations.

What teachers want from principals? ›

Teachers should expect principals to have the emotional stability to pause, rather than explode when they go wrong or feel wronged; principals should recognize their errors, publicly accept responsibility, and strive to fix mistakes. Good principals know they can't always be right.

What effective principals do differently? ›

Todd Whitaker's "What Great Principals Do Differently"
  • (1.) It's the people, not programs. ...
  • (2.) Who is the variable? ...
  • (3.) Treat everyone with respect, every day, all the time. ...
  • (4.) The principal is the filter. ...
  • (5.) Teach the teachers. ...
  • (6.) Hire great teachers. ...
  • (7.) Standardized testing. ...
  • (8.)

How do principals empower teachers? ›

The principal can empower teachers to support instructional leadership through mentoring and coaching colleagues, by leading professional learning workshops and organizing professional book and article studies.

What do you love most about being a principal? ›

50 Things I Love about being a Principal
  • Having the pleasure to watch teams of teachers work collaboratively to plan memorable and engaging lessons while supporting them with ideas, supports and resources.
  • Knowing that each day is different and there are so many things I LOVE about being a principal!
Feb 13, 2018

Why is being a principal hard? ›

It can be stressful

Principals often work under pressure because they handle things like managing the school's budget and making sure students succeed at standardized tests. Making important decisions and taking accountability for missteps can be taxing.

How do I prepare for a school principal interview? ›

5 Tips to Interview to Be a Principal
  1. Be confident and prepared the next time you face the hiring committee. ...
  2. Do your homework. ...
  3. Say more with less. ...
  4. Purpose over chronology. ...
  5. Think from different perspectives. ...
  6. If you don't get it, start preparing for the next one. ...
  7. Start Now.
Jun 20, 2019

What should a principal do in the first 90 days? ›

Have them identify their role(s), strengths and challenges Meet with Building unions Representatives and President(s) Meet with Superintendent to outline expectations Host one-on-one meet and greet with departments and teams (clerical, leadership, ELA, etc…) The first 90 days of any job is crucial.

How does a principal build relationships with teachers? ›

By establishing open lines of communication, showing genuine interest in teachers' professional growth, being visible and involved in school events, prioritizing a teacher's well-being, and building relationships with all members of the school community, principals can foster strong connections with their teachers and ...

Do principals make a difference? ›

The impact of an effective school principal on student learning is the same as the impact of a strong teacher. On average, students in schools with effective principals gain up to three additional months of learning each year. The difference is scale. A teacher impacts 20-30 students.

How should a school principal behave? ›

As a principal, you have to be able to empathize with people even though you may not have experienced what they are experiencing. You need to be able to listen actively and give advice and solutions to help them. A kind, empathetic school principal also comes across as far more approachable.

What can you say about your principal? ›

You are a principal whose legacy will be remembered fondly.” “Strong leadership is the foundation of school success and without you that would not be possible. Because of you, our graduation rates are at an all-time high! Thank you for inspiring our students to achieve their dreams every single day.”

What makes a highly effective 21ST century principal leader? ›


EQ involves self awareness and social awareness, an understanding of people, and good relationship management. This allows you to understand and be responsive to your own needs and the needs of people around you.

What every principal needs to know? ›

Principals should understand academic standards for every grade level in their school and have a working knowledge of the curriculum and teaching materials, said Susan Korach, an associate professor of education leadership at Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver.

What are the four C's of leadership? ›

The importance of the four C's in leadership: Candor, Commitment, Courage and Competence are necessary to maintain strong and effective soldiers. A reflection of a good leader shows in his followers.

What are the 4 C's of effective leadership? ›

There are four C's to guide the journey of leaders in a complex and ever-evolving world: connection, clarity, coaching and commitment.

What is the best leadership style? ›

The democratic leadership style is one of the most effective because it encourages everyone to participate in all processes, share their opinions, and know that you will hear them. It also encourages employees to be engaged because they know you will hear their feedback.

What is the role of principal in an organization? ›

The principal of a company is responsible for the management of daily business operations. They work to develop their company's mission and think of strategies to achieve the organization's goals. A principal needs to be able to plan short-term and long-term objectives when implementing business plans.

What type of leader is a principal? ›

Leaders in Academic Settings

Principals have oversight of their school's operations, coordinating daily activities, curricula, staff, and schedules. They are ultimately responsible for the learning environment in elementary, middle, and high schools.

What does principal mean in a role? ›

In a business context, a principal is a key figure in the company's management. The term usually refers to the owner of a private company or primary decision-maker. This may be the chief executive officer (CEO), but the title can be appointed to numerous individuals regardless of job titles.

What is principal role as transformational leadership? ›

In transformational leadership, the principal's role shifts toward fostering a collective vision and motivating members of an organization to achieve extraordinary performance.

What is principal role in decision making? ›

The principal guides the amount of participation in decision in the third part. The principal must decide the decision effectiveness and the best way to reach the desired level of effectiveness.

What is the role of principal in conflict management? ›

The principal must have a broad view of conflict and how to manage a conflict that occurs in the school appropriately through the implementation of conflict management. The principal must maximize all the potential that exists in the school to properly regulate the resolution of conflicts that occur in schools.

What is the best leadership style for a school principals? ›

The authoritative leadership style is one of the most effective in education. These leaders are fair and consistent. They also have high expectations for their students and expect them to meet those expectations. They also provide feedback to their students so they can improve their performance.

Is a school principal a leader or manager? ›

Any strong organization needs a point person that maintains, manages, and inspires everyone to meet the vision and mission of the group. In schools, the principal is the leader vested to make sure a student-centered, healthy learning environment exists.

Is a principal a leader? ›

The point is that although in any school a range of leadership patterns exists – among principals, assistant principals, formal and informal teacher leaders, and parents – the principal remains the central source of leadership influence.

What does it mean if you are a principal? ›

: a person who has controlling authority or is in a leading position: such as. : a chief or head man or woman. : the chief executive officer of an educational institution.

Is principal higher than lead? ›

Tech Lead, Team Lead, and Staff engineer are Software Engineers responsible for leading a team of 3 to 6 people. Principal Engineer is a very Senior Engineer with one or more areas of deep expertise. Principal Engineers usually have no people responsibilities but might serve as an inspiration to others.

What is the meaning of principal in school? ›

Principal as an adjective means "the most important." As a noun, it refers to someone in a leading position, or the executive officer of a school.

What is the relationship between principal leadership and school improvement? ›

Gaining credence is the key to enhance principals' transformational leadership. Gaining credence means a lot in the school improvement. School improvement is the principal and school members' sincerely cooperate. If it doesn't have enough trust, the cooperation won't be successful.

What can a school head do as a transformational leader? ›

An important responsibility of a school head who enacts transformational leadership is to create a trustful, free, and protected school environment for faculty and to inspire them to reflect on their cognitive and behavioral patterns, all of which constitutes the basis of school education innovation (Cohen et al.


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