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Leadership Insights Updated August 8, 2018

School Leadership: Five Key Functions for Principals

By The Room 241 Team May 8, 2013

The past 10 years have introduced a radical transformation in school leadership. Principals no longer function as just managers and administrators.

Today’s school leaders must possess keen transformational leadership skills. They’re expected to manage staffing issues, such as the hiring and dismissal of teachers and support staff; oversee improvements in student academic achievement; maintain administrative and facilities management. But their professional functions don’t end there.

Cultivating a positive learning environment

Educational leaders are increasingly accountable for cultivating a positive school culture that’s conducive to learning and student development. In many cases, this will involve a restructuring of programs and methodologies to reverse the trend of poorly-performing schools. Which leadership functions are necessary for a successful restructuring program?

University of Georgia Study

A recent study conducted by the University of Georgia theorizes that today’s principals need to be engaged in at least five key functions to facilitate reforms and improvements in schools. These include:

  • Vision – Leaders must articulate a strong and positive vision of how they want to improve the school, along with showcasing adeptness at identifying problems and creating solutions.
  • Planning and goal-setting – Leaders need to identify clear and achievable goals, and then communicate them to other stakeholders.
  • Sharing the decision-making process – Leaders cooperate and work with faculty, staff, students, parents, and others. They also have enough flexibility to allow plans to evolve as necessary.
  • Empowering and taking initiative – An effective school leader keeps the restructuring process churning and then allows faculty and staff to bring their own visions and initiatives to the planning table. This allows them to “own” the sharing of ideas and perspectives of programs under consideration.
  • Development of faculty and staff – Proper leadership includes providing support and opportunities for mentorship and professional development, especially for new teachers. The first three years are critical to the development of their skills. Principals can visit and observe classrooms on a regular basis, offering to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of educators and support staff plus provide other constructive feedback.

Wallace Foundation’s Perspective

The Wallace Foundation provides their own version of five key functions:

  • Creating a vision
  • Facilitating a hospitable educational climate
  • Encouraging others in leadership
  • Improving instructional quality
  • Managing human and other resources and processes to bring about needed improvements within the school.

The results of effective school leadership

Finally, with all of the functions in place, improvement programs are now fully integrated into the curriculum and other activities. The original vision of restructuring is complete. Continual monitoring and additional fine-tuning are necessary components to make sure all the restructuring efforts stay successful. It’s up to school leaders to maintain a thriving educational environment for teachers and students alike.

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