In response to the post, “Advice for the First Year Principal,” a reader writes:
“Thank you ~ especially for number 2.
I’m going to print this and post it on my desk. I told someone just the other day, “I’m not here for a personality contest.”
In a nice way, of course.”
Today I was talking to some up and coming AP’s about the reasons why I think the first year as a principal is so tough. I told them that a big reason for this is that the AP position limits the growth and refinement of their leadership skills.
First consider growth. Initially, in the role, there is a big growth spurt. For the first time, the AP is actually responsible for stuff and things and solving low to mid level problems. The problem is, on most campuses, that’s it. The structure is lacking when it comes to providing increased or complex responsibility for the typical AP. By year three you have seen it all; by year five you know it all.
Because the AP job has a ceiling when it comes to complexity, the typical AP can rely on their “go-to” strength to solve most problems. The autocrat can remain autocratic and generate acceptable results and the collaborator can focus on collaboration and generate acceptable results.
This creates a problem in the principal’s chair, your “go-to” strength will solve a lot of problems, but it will also create problems that you are ill prepared to deal with. The principalship requires a lot of situational leadership strategies. There are times when you have to make decision and tell people exactly what they will do, when to do it and how to do it. The autocrat does well in this situation, the collaborator less so. On the other hand there are times when consensus is the critical variable in solving the problem. The collaborator does great in this situation, the autocrat turns into the bull in the china cabinet.
In theory, or during an “in-basket” exercise, everyone gets this. But ramp up the stress, responsibility, accountability and time line, and theory goes out the window and people revert to their default behavior. It often takes getting your fingers burned or your hand slapped a couple of times to refine and add to your repertoire of leadership practices.
So my advice for the AP’s was look to expand their roles wherever possible, take ownership of both problems and the results of their solutions and recognize that they can learn as much from their failures as they do from their successes.
Think. Work. Achieve.