Are you a great principal? Do you know what it takes to be one? Well, Todd Whitiker thinks he does and I would have to agree.

I have the fantastic privilege of engaging and working with many leaders in Jewish education on a daily basis. I have worked with some of the best and, occasionally, some of the worst. I believe strongly that great leadership is the key to successful schools, but what does great leadership look like? Todd Whitiker sought out to answer that question and uses research, his own experiences, and what he learned in consulting with around 50 different schools to come up a list of eighteen things that make a principal great.  I found reading his book, “What Great Principals Do Differently 2nd Ed: Eighteen Things That Matter Most,” to be inspiring, reassuring and a must have guide and reminder for any school leader.

Below are the “eighteen things” and if they speak to you I recommend picking up Whitikers book to get a deeper understanding of each of the things that matter most.

1) Great principals never forget that it is people, not programs, that determine the quality of a school.

2) Great principles have clarity about who they are, what they do, and how others perceive them.

3) Great principles take responsibility for their own performance and for all aspects of their school.

4) Great principles create a positive atmosphere in their schools. They treat every person with respect. In particular, they understand the power of praise.

5) Great principles consistently filter out the negatives that don’t matter and share a positive attitude.

6) Great principles deliberately apply a range of strategies to improve teacher performance.

7) Great principles take every opportunity to hire and retain the very best teachers.

8) Great principles understand the dynamics of change.

9) Great teachers keep standardizing testing in perspective and focus on the real issue of student learning.

10) Great principles know when to focus on behaviors before beliefs.

11) Great principles are loyal to their students, to their teachers, and to the school. They expect loyalty to students and the school to take precedence over loyalty to themselves.

12) Before making any decisions or attempting to bring about any change, great principles ask themselves one central question: What will my best teachers think of this?

13) Great principles continually ask themselves who is most comfortable and who is least comfortable with each decision they make. They treat everyone as if they were good.

14) Great principles understand high achievers, are sensitive to their best teacher’s needs, and make the most of this valuable resource.

15) Great principles make it cool to care. They understand that behaviors and beliefs are tied to emotion, and they understand the power of emotion to jump-start change.

16) Great principles work hard to keep their relationships in good repair – to avoid personal hurt and to repair any possible damage.

17) Great principles take steps to improve or remove negative and ineffective staff members.

18) Great principles establish clear expectations at the start of the year and follow them consistently as the year progresses.


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