Important Traits for a Principal

May 1, 2016

Important Traits for a Principal

Being responsible for an entire school is a tough job but somebody has to do it. It can be rewarding and will definitely be challenging. Most people are not cut out to be educational leaders as they lack the necessary characteristics to be successful in the roles & responsibilities of the principal. Negating obvious professional requirements, there are a specific group of traits that any school principal must possess. All of them are present in the daily routine of running an effective school.




Any principal must be able to lead, this is absolutely essential and the most important characteristic of all principals. The best leaders not only take responsibility for successes but also failures in their schools. A natural leader always ensures that the needs of others are met before their own. Leaders always look for improvement no matter the difficulty. A school’s success can be defined by its leadership. An educational institute without a leader is sure to fail, as is a principal without the ability to lead. To be an effective school leader you need to be also a manager & administrator who know how to deal with the complex school frames (Legitimate frame, Social Political frame & Moral Ethical frame). An efficient educational leader needs to learn that schools have to be efficient & effective institution.




A principal needs to be able to connect with each individual that they deal with professionally. Finding common ground is a good way to earn trust. Principals deal with people on a daily basis, such as superintendents, teachers, administration staff, parents & students to name but a few. Each individual, depending on their link to the school, requires a different approach. Situations will vary and showing care about different situations will aid resolution. If an individual feels that they aren’t a people person, they cannot be an effective principal.




This point is most applicable when dealing with students and teachers. Expectations should be high and a principal must hold those they are responsible for to their own standards. As such, there will be occasions where staff and students must be reprimanded. It is an important part of being principal and completely necessary. At the same time, you must be willing to give praise when appropriate. Always appreciate teachers going the extra mile and students who excel in academia. Outstanding principals can motivate using both approaches. To summerise this point an educational leader has five types of power: Legitimate power, Coercive power, Reward power, Expert power & Referent Power.




Similar situations must be consistently handled. There is no quicker way to lose credibility. Although situations are unique, a principal must remember similar situations and how they were handled. Students in particular remember how situations have been handled and they will make comparisons. If a principal becomes inconsistent, students will call them out on it. History is the only reason for varying decisions. If a student has a history of fighting, detention would not be enough. Exclusion would be reasonable because of the student’s history. A principal must always consider their decisions and be prepared for disagreement.




Each day as a principal will have differences, so organisation is key. There are so many variables involved that a lack of organisation can lead to ineffectiveness. Each day should be planned and have a to-do list, even if the principal understands that they will never complete this list. A principal must be prepared to deal with anything. Policies and procedures will aid dealing with unplanned complications.




Upset teachers, angry students and disgruntled parents could walk into a principal’s office at any time. Preparation for these situations begins with listening. A principal can diffuse a situation simply by paying full attention to the issue at hand. When somebody approaches because they feel they have been wronged, hear them out but don’t allow them to belittle others in the process. Be willing to step in to resolve the process. In this sense diagnosing conflicts & their causes as well as managing them are key elements is managing schools.




Education changes constantly. If a principal isn’t excelling to improve their school, they are simply not doing their job. Improvement should be ongoing, regardless of the length of time a principal has been in charge of a school. Every component of a school is part of the machine. If a part isn’t working, it must be replaced for the sake of the school. Upgrading systems that work has benefits as times are constantly changing. Even the best staff members can improve. It is a principal’s job to see that nobody is too comfortable and is working to improve continuously.


Leading and managing educational organisations often results in a rich and varied career. Notting Hill College are a pioneering teacher training college based in Manchester with global connections. If you see yourself as a visionary leader and a competent manager in education, we may have the perfect course for you. Learn to create effective and efficient schools by enrolling on the Educational Leadership & Management Diploma.


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