By Sarah Pazur • Principal Leadership Article

Many school districts have continued to provide virtual learning options for students even as the pandemic continues to affect our communities. Some have launched fully remote schools and are recruiting virtual principals to lead them. Others are adding virtual leadership responsibilities onto their building leaders’ plates. In either case, these reconstituted boundaries of school mean principals have become liminal leaders in this pandemic era—leaders who now govern between the old and the new, between the campus and the cloud.

A recent principal effectiveness report, “How Principals Affect Students and Schools: A Systematic Synthesis of Two Decades of Research,” by Jason Grissom, Anna Egalite, and Constance Lindsay at The Wallace Foundation, identified three overlapping realms of effective principal leadership: instruction, people, and organization. While this research does not account for these emerging virtual leadership roles, it does provide a lens through which 21st-century principals can view the standards of effective leadership and begin to ask themselves: How do these practices translate to the virtual space? To understand each of these domains within the scope of liminal leadership, principals can turn to the experience of veteran online school leaders for insight.