In my experience, the best principals have three skills: vision, project management, and interpersonal skills. These skills are often found in many of the most successful business people as well. If we want progress in education we need principals to point their school in the right direction, support reform by planning and managing the school’s resources, and participate in vertical and horizontal communication similar to great leaders in business and non-profit.
Huffington Post writer Steffen Thybo Moller questioned the recent trend in blaming tenure for failing schools, in his article “School Reform’s Latest Challenge: Leadership.” A new research project led by Anthony S. Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, supports his opinion. Bryk’s research team concluded leadership is the most important factor in improving schools, not whether or not teachers are tenured, and school reform won’t happen unless these leadership roles are filled. Leadership of a school is like a well run company. Each person knows the vision and mission, knows their personal goals and is committed to the team of people with whom they work to achieve extraordinary things individually and as part of the collective staff.
Teachers are an important element in determining whether a student, a class and a community succeed or fail, but the principal can set the tone for the ways in which problems are solved, the spirit in which students, parents and community members are called forth and the way in which a vision is articulated, maintained and followed through on over time. This is an important time for leadership in all aspects of our society and, especially for principals who can lead our country to new heights of student participation, experience, achievement and knowledge.