The Leadership Roles of Principals


A principal's leadership qualities directly impact school success, staff effectiveness and student achievement. A principal must be comfortable with juggling a variety of roles and accomplishing numerous tasks, often simultaneously. Principals undertake vast responsibility at multiple levels, but the rewarding nature of the job makes the leadership role worthwhile for most educators in this position.


A principal administers over the entire school staff, students, lower administration officials and volunteers. This often means tending to the needs, wishes, demands and complaints of hundreds of people of many ages and backgrounds. Even in smaller schools, staying organized, coordinating tasks, balancing responsibilities and making decisions are parts of a principal's daily work duties. For a school to operate efficiently in accomplishing both academic success and a pleasant atmosphere, a principal's role as supervisor is to implement plans and know when to change structure or shift gears.


Even when all eyes are on the principal for ideas, solutions and action, the principal must be willing to work hand in hand with everyone in the school, from students to teachers to parents and staff. In the role of leading collaborator, a principal takes the opinions, thoughts and advice of everyone in his workplace to address concerns or create and implement new ideas. Unlike other careers where rules can be dictated by the supervisor in charge, schools are rarely led by the principal's power alone. Rather, decisions are usually made collaboratively through a variety of resources.


Since a principal must be a certified teacher, one of the largest leadership roles in this position is teaching. A principal must be ready, willing and able at all times to take over a classroom when a substitute is not readily available or in case of an emergency situation. Even when the principal is not physically teaching in a classroom, the role of being the "teacher of teachers" must be taken seriously. A principal cannot be frivolous in assuming that the teachers are doing their jobs. The blame for an ineffective leader is likely to fall on the principal of the school. Holding staff meetings, having staff improvement days and conducting one-on-one check-ins with teachers are imperative for a leader of a school.

Conflict Resolution Leader

Images of sitting in the principal's office bring a sense of queasiness even to many adults' minds. However, the principal's role is to address conflict in all forms. Whether it is two students who scuffed fists in the hallway, a teacher and student who just don't seem to get along, or multiple teachers arguing over who gets to use the copy machine at what times, it is the principal who will be called on to mediate the matter. A principal is expected to work collaboratively to find solutions to conflicts, yet is simultaneously expected to enact consequences for situations that are otherwise unsolvable.

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