Leadership in the K–12 educational setting is challenging. Everyone looks for the one magic formula to address various grade levels, communities in a district with different needs, best instructional practices, behavior, supervision, managerial duties, governmental statutes, central office responsibilities, and myriad other challenges. And every leader in a school setting is different. Years of experience, education level, teaching background, and personal history all have an impact on an individual principal’s perspective.

Every school day is different, and no two situations are the same. So how do principals balance all of that and keep their focus on doing what is best for kids? They need a framework around which to structure their core beliefs and build their daily practice. To that end, here are 11 guidelines to keep you laser-focused each day while performing at a peak level of excellence. Each pillar of leadership starts with a “P,” just like “Principal.” These have been derived from over 50 years of combined educational experiences, seven years and 125 episodes of the Rockstar Principals’ Podcast, dozens of interviews with education thought leaders, and feedback from over 80,000 listeners in 100 different countries on six continents.

  • Passion
  • Patience
  • Perspicacity
  • Plainness
  • Pluck
  • Positivity
  • Pledge of Responsibility
  • Pragmatism
  • Proactive Thinking
  • Proficient Placidness
  • Poignant Communication

Passion and the Path to Excellence

The long path to excellence begins with passion. It takes years of dedicated practice and execution to become an expert in your field. Without sincere passion, most will fall short of attaining mastery because they won’t be able to maintain the dedication and discipline needed to execute. Look at successful people in any field, whether it be athletics, business, medicine, technology, acting, or more. One common characteristic among all of them will be a high level of passion for what they do. Exceptional principals are no different than these other professionals. They possess a passion to see their schools grow and succeed. They also have a passion to help those around them achieve greatness.

Passion-Driven Decision Making

One of our passions is creating an environment that enables and empowers teachers to provide instruction and student guidance at the highest possible level. That passion drives us to specifically make decisions geared toward that end. That manifests itself in many ways. For example, if a budgetary decision must be made between new flexible seating classroom furniture or curriculum-based instructional resources, we will approach our best teachers and ask them which option will best enable them to bolster student achievement. Every decision invokes passion that will help keep the fire lit to execute the project through to its conclusion.

Helping Others Pursue Their Passions

More importantly, perhaps, is our responsibility to allow our students and teachers opportunities to pursue their passions. You’ve read about our district’s schoolwide clubs, which aim to let our teachers share one of their passions with a group of interested students. One of the other examples within our district gives students an opportunity to develop a passion of their own over a school year. You can read about the capstone experience in the fall 2018 issue of The Pennsylvania Administrator.

As you reflect on what specific passion drives you, ask yourself how to channel that passion into ways to benefit your students, staff, and school community.

Nicholas Indeglio, EdD, is the principal of Downingtown Middle School in Downingtown, PA. He is the 2017 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year and co-host of the Rockstar Principals Podcast. Follow him on Twitter (@DrIndeglio)

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