Four Ways to Expand Your Influence as a Principal

A principal’s influence spreads far and wide—impacting students, faculty, staff, parents, and the entire community. I have been blessed to serve as a school administrator for the past twenty years. As the principal of Pottsgrove High School, I take this responsibility seriously and value the power I have to make a positive impact. I am constantly looking for ways to increase my influence and to expand opportunities for our students. I grow so much as a leader when I learn what other leaders are doing. I encourage you to check out how these leaders are expanding their reach, work, and opportunities for students.

Be Authentic, Not Perfect: So often we strive for perfection and it holds us back from growth and success. Or, we lead in a way that doesn’t best reflect who we are as a person. Instead, focus on being authentic. Your students, faculty, staff, and community need the best you that you can be. They don’t need you to be perfect; they need you to be authentic. Megan Black (@MaBlackOW), assistant principal of Olathe West High School in Kansas, shares, “Part of being an authentic leader is being a person willing to take any challenges head on. The most authentic leaders are the ones who learn from mistakes.”

Be Smart—Surround Yourself With Greatness: The strongest leaders are confident and smart enough to surround themselves with people smarter than them. Dr. Sanée Bell (@SaneeBell) of Morton Ranch Junior High in Katy, TX, shares, “I always tell my staff that I don’t have all the answers, but I am wise enough to surround myself with a strong PLN that is equipped to help me with my leadership challenges and dilemmas. Each year I strive to become a better version of myself. We must seek to challenge ourselves as individuals so that we don’t become irrelevant. If we are not growing each year as leaders, we are on our way to becoming irrelevant, ineffective, and unfocused. If you don’t have other leaders around you who make you better, find leaders who challenge your thinking and encourage you to be excellent.”

Be Connected—Build Your PLN: When we are connected leaders, we expand our reach and strengthen our learning. Boomer Kennedy (@BoomerKennedy), principal of Forbush High School in East Bend, NC, shares, “I highly recommend that teachers and principals use social media platforms to connect with fellow educators. Twitter is a great avenue for sharing ideas with educators from around the world.” When leaders are connected, their faculty, staff, and students benefit. Follow the leaders in this post on Twitter, check out Lead the Way, a podcast for school leaders, and get connected with the opportunities to lead and participate at NASSP.

Be an Example—Dumpster Diving Leaders: I have dumpster dived for a retainer or cell phone more than once because I work to place the student’s best interest over my own pride and comfort zone. Leaders need to be an example of going the extra mile for kids; they need to be willing to dumpster dive for kids. Principal Darrell Webb (@docwebb1911 ) of Turner Elementary School in Shreveport, LA, shares “I work to build buy-in from my teachers and to do this, I need to be the example of what we expect in our school. I am the first on campus and many days the last to leave the campus. I expect my staff to be on time so I am always on time. I teach lessons, watch classes for teachers, work weekends with teachers, change trash can liners, serve food in the cafeteria, and eat with teachers/staff. I even performed my first dance in front of an audience for my staff and students. As a leader, you have to be visible and relevant to your staff. Be approachable and positive. I want a leader who is out here with me in the trenches and not afraid to get [their] hands dirty. As a school leader, we have to be humble and serve in the same trenches we are leading.”

As we celebrate principals this month, take a moment to reflect on the positive impact you are making on your students and school, start journaling the positive things that are taking place on a daily basis, and take time for yourself to improve and grow. Thank you for being a principal, You totally ROCK!

Bill Ziegler, EdD, is the principal of Pottsgrove High School in Pottstown, PA. He was a 2015 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year and the 2016 Pennsylvania Principal of the Year. Bill is the host of Lead the Way, A Podcast for School Leaders that is 5 minutes or less and works to encourage, equip, and empower school leaders. He is also the co-author of Future Focused Leaders: Relate, Innovate, and Invigorate for Real Educational Change. Follow him on Twitter @drbillziegler.

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