Headshot of Todd WhitakerTodd Whitaker, professor of educational leadership at Indiana State University, has served as a principal at the middle and high school levels. One of the nation’s leading authorities on staff motivation, teacher leadership, and principal effectiveness, Whitaker has written more than 40 books, including the national best-seller What Great Teachers Do Differently, which is also the title of his presentation at NASSP’s Ignite ’16 conference in Orlando this month. In this month’s questionnaire, we asked him about the most important trait of effective principals, his favorite movies, and his personal motto.

What are the most important traits of effective principals?

Two things: Make every decision based on what is best for students. And make every decision based on the best people.

What do great principals do differently in terms of motivating teachers?

They understand that their role is to teach teachers, not students, and they allow and encourage teachers to be excited and creative about teaching, rather than draining the life out of them. They also understand that motivating teachers is a top priority.

What is your favorite book you read recently?

I’m not much of a reader. My colleagues tease me that I’m the only person they know who has written more books than he’s read. 

What are your favorite movies?

My Dinner with Andre and It’s a Wonderful Life. They are, of course, very different movies, but they are two of my all-time favorites.

How are you able to be such a prolific writer?

I write from my heart as much as from my head. If there’s something I want to express, I need to get it out through my writing.

How can NASSP help principals succeed?

Principals perform an incredibly valuable role in our society. NASSP can be extremely helpful in providing resources, guidance, and networking opportunities for principals. NASSP is a vitally important organization in secondary education. It has served as an advocacy organization for principals for a very long time. 

What is your motto?

Treat everyone you deal with as if he or she is a good person.