In response to the post, “Advice for the First Year Principal – Part 3,” a reader writes:
“OK writer, you are off to a good start, but here is where you need to polish up. True: you are not in a popularity contest. However, there is a popularity contest going on, even if you choose not to participate. You need to understand (Sean does) that being a principal is about 30% mechanics (LYS stuff) and 70% personality. Even from the business world, Steven Covey reminds us that we can demand expectations, but people only give their best voluntarily.
My first principalship I spent my time learning the mechanics; I mastered that quickly. My second principalship was a situation of task overload. The school was in desperate shape, enter the need for the knowledge of mechanics (which I had not mastered, but knew adequately). However, the community was a hornet’s nest, enter the need for personality. Harry Miller and Roger Hailey attempted to give me a crash course in personality, but the school was the perfect storm. The school was too broke, I was too inexperienced, and the community was too entrenched in mediocrity. I simply was unable to learn fast enough to overcome the storm.
Fast forward to my fourth leadership position. I assure you I have mastered the mechanics and have learned the lessons from Miller and Hailey. Maybe not to perfection yet, but certainly to adequacy. You must not only manage the easy stuff (the mechanics), but you must master the dynamics of leading people.
Just saying, you may want to rethink the popularity issue.”
Early in my first principalship, one of my mentors (Dr. Richard Griffin), pulled my aside and said, “Son, being a good principal is 70% personality, 30% technical. You have the ratios reversed.”
It’s an important lesson, yet one that is rarely taught directly and explicitly because personality is so personal. It’s easier to hear (and say), “you’re wrong,” than “you’re a pompous, arrogant jerk.”
I glad you mentioned Harry Miller. Sometimes the coach you need isn’t the coach you want. As you mentioned, your “go to” skill set is centered on the rapid turn around. This unique skill and experience set is why you are always in demand. But as you pointed out, District 2 had the need, but not the desire. Enter Coach Miller. I remember you telling me, “Harry is different than my other LYS coach. He wants me to go slower”
To which I replied, “Harry wants you to go fast, just is a different way.”
All this to say, as you well know, the purpose of leadership is to move the organization from where it is, to where it is should be, to where it could be, in an effective, efficient and expedited manner. To do this requires a package of skills, executed with purpose and reflection. Popularity for popularity’s sake is an exercise in vanity. Popularity as a leadership skill is a legitimate and effective tool.
Think. Work. Achieve.