In response to the posts relating to, “A Reader Shares… Sunday Advice (2/7/10),” a reader writes:

“SC, as a former principal and a current assistant superintendent I think you are dead on in your analysis of positional roles and agendas. There are many of my decisions that I now have to make knowing that no matter how bad it tastes, my decision will at least put more principals in the position to be successful. Which admittedly is a couple of degrees off of “Student First.”

SC Response
I think what is important about Brown’s Rule boils down to two critical points.

1. If you are a principal, it reminds you what a pivotal role you have in the overall system. A role that is rarely filled by others if you abdicate your responsibility or compromise the principles.

2. If you are not a principal, it serves to remind you that there is sometimes a need to question your motives at regular intervals and to realize that many of the conflicts that involve you and the principal are strictly contextual, not personal.

When I was promoted to central office, Brezina gave me this piece of advice, “A good principal is difficult to manage. A great one is damn near impossible.”

As usual, he is right. And what I have found is that this good vs. great dynamic generally hinges on the principal’s definition of “win/win.” If the principal’s definition of “win / win” means the compromise between her position and your position, there will be occasional friction, but there is some give to adult considerations. Relationships will remain unruffled, but “good” becomes the performance potential of the school.

If the principal’s definition of “win/win” means that “my kids win / my school wins,” then there will be regular friction. Relationships will sometimes be bruised. However, “great” becomes the performance potential of the school. But only if executive leadership values the particular role that the great principal serves. That role is to keep the system honest. If executive leadership does not value that role, then the great principal becomes the “cancer” in the system and will either be forced out or leave on her own accord.

To sum up, working for a great principal is harder than working for a good one, but much more rewarding. Having a great principal work for you is often a royal pain, but if you can deal with being reminded that sometimes “the emperor wears no clothes,” your district will reap the benefits of her labor and single minded passion. And finally, if you notice that occasionally great principals arrive in your district but never stay, that is one huge red flag.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…