Sailing The Stormy Seas Of A Principal (Ship)

“No one’s life is a smooth sail; we all come into stormy weather.  But it’s this adversity – and more specifically, our resilience – that makes us strong and successful.”  -T. Robbins

Effective and successful school principal’s are truly cut from a different piece of cloth.  The days of making sure the lights are turned on and taking time to handle a few discipline issues are definitely far behind us.  The expectations and accountability that has been heaved upon their shoulders is heavier and more intense than any other time in our history.  And until you have walked the walk, until they hand the keys over and tell you that you are the one who is responsible, you can’t fathom the mental stress, pressure, and sense of urgency that accompanies the position.  Modern day school principal’s are facing rough and stormy seas.

Yet, like any good ship’s captain…a principal acknowledges their commitment to their crew and their ship.  A responsibility that spans the safety, security, and success of that ship and all within.  A commitment and responsibility that rests squarely on their shoulders.  They recognize and understand that the decisions they may be required to make can and will be difficult and may affect the ship and all its members.  And each day they face this challenge knowing that they will need to earn and maintain the trust every crew member aboard.  Knowing full well that titles are given and respect is earned.

Much like a sea-worthy captain…today’s principal must carefully determine their ship’s destination and the path that will best take them to that point.  Determining and maintaining constantly.  Much like that sea-worthy captain, they must not only have a strong understanding of the destination, but all of the obstacles, hazards, and dangers that might impede their way.  They have to be constantly aware of their position, their progress, setting and maintaining coordinates, and successfully taking that ship towards its port of destination.

Which are the ‘hard skills’ of leadership.  Those necessary skills that allow a leader to guide the ship to its destination.  For a principal, those skllls include being…the instructional leader, a fiscal steward, a parent liaison, director of safety and security, the professional development coordinator, an event organizer, and the executive of communications.  Which are just a short list of the ‘hard skills’ necessary of modern day principal’s to lead their ship to calm waters.

And while it may sound like a lot (and it is)…it is still not enough.  Especially to be effective in leading through our current rough and stormy educational waters.  Today’s modern day principal must also be equipped with what we would refer to as the ‘soft skills’ of leadership.

These are the skills that allow a principal to elevate their influence from from managing to leading.  The ‘soft skills’ are the often overlooked skills necessary to create inspiring leadership.  Leadership worth following.  They serve as the influence factor that creates followers rather than compliers.  They create the leaders that make you willing to face rough and stormy seas.  Make you confident and willing to sail into unchartered waters.

Leaders who grasp the importance of the ‘soft skills’ understand the importance of creating and cultivating the right climate and culture on their ship…they understand the importance of creating a positive tenor and tone in support of that climate and culture.  Leaders who work to create and maintain it in every action, decision, and conversation that they invest and participate in.  They are cognizant that this is the most important work that they do as a leader.  To create a climate and culture with a tenor and tone that allows and supports their crew the ability and luxury to function and work at their highest level.  They acknowledge that when they do, when they empower those they lead, they create a ship that is sailing towards its destination at full sail.

Great leaders understand the necessity of having emotional intelligence, of having the ‘soft skills’…skills that include connecting, communicating, motivating, understanding and modeling.  Skills that allow a leader to create the right tenor and tone.  Skills that create influence and put the wind in the sails of your leadership…as the captain or as the principal.

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2 thoughts on “Sailing The Stormy Seas Of A Principal (Ship)

  1. Thanks David. Reminds me of a card a good friend sent me when I was going through some “rough waters” in my role as Principal. The line that stuck with me was “Anyone can take the helm when the sea is calm”. I’ve thought of that every time I face a storm and it reminds me that folks like you in leadership roles are indeed cut from a different cloth. Sail on!

  2. Pingback: Learning and Innovation » Superintendent's Blog

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