Good to Great Administrators

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Flickr Photo courtesy of USDOE

Growing older certainly contributes to one’s desire to think philosophically. The older I get, the more I realize it’s not good enough to simply contribute – one must push hard enough to go from “good to great”. This is not a new concept. My latest inspiration comes from a Grant Wiggins post as he outlines seven provocative ways that a teacher can reach greatness and have a legacy that can be remembered. I invited our Leadership Team to read Grant’s post and we generated our own brief list of what separates good and great administrators:

Get more from your staff than they thought was possible. 

  • Teachers need encouragement, solid professional development and the innate belief that they can go from good to great.

Bend the rules when necessary.

  • OK, maybe not break the law, RSA, or school policy. But leaders have to see new possibilities in the routines.

Find time to build relationships.

  • Cliche yes, but relationships not only matter but are the most crucial piece in a administrator’s success.

Be able to recognize that you don’t know it all and every day you will learn something.

  • One of the greatest dangers any administrator can face is pride. Often we feel that if we don’t know something, we can’t show weakness. We don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. I wrote a blog post this summer that highlighted 15 tips for the new principal and one of my themes is being willing to admit when you’re wrong and freely apologizing.

Know when it’s time to let go and when enough is enough.

  • I average about 70 hours per week at the job if I count time at home. I can’t do much more than that and be a solid husband and father. We have to look for efficiencies in our jobs and find time for exercise, proper eating, and at least seven hours of sleep a night. Our jobs are too tough otherwise.

Know when you are enabling and when you are supporting.

  • I have known many administrators who work so hard that they do the work that their staff should be doing. Robyn Jackson’s book Never Work Harder Than Your Students could be rewritten to Never Work Harder Than Your Teachers. It’s perhaps natural for the administrator to be helpful and extend assistance to the point where your teachers don’t learn to grow themselves and never take measured risks. And of course, this relates to our last point:

We have to take the time to grow teacher leaders. 

  • The data is clear. Principals are not going to last in one district as long as the teachers for the most part. If we want to leave a legacy and depart a school in better shape than when we arrived, we have to grow teachers as leaders.

What would you add to this list? What makes a great administrator?

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