Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Effective Principals

During the third quarter of this school year, my seniors wrote expository essays on the theme of feminity and masculinity. Many students, especially the female students, chose to write about how women in positions of authority need to become more pervasive. As Hillary Clinton and others continues their bid for the White House, I'd like to explore effective leadership.
My principal has accepted a new position at a "coming to theaters" high school--meaning it hasn't opened yet. One of the vice prinicipals is retiring and the other accepted a principal's position at another school. This has created a leadership vacuum--well, not exactly because a new principal has been hired; she was introduced today.
As she was introduced, I recalled two conversations; one conversation was with a female student, the other with a female colleague. The female student had told me that she would never vote for a female president because she didn't believe that women make the most effective leaders. The female colleague shared her thoughts about having to work for female principal who may be "territorial."
These two conversations brought back my experiences with female bosses. I will focus on one of the jobs I had before becoming a teacher. While working for a popular chain restaurant, I had the joy of working for a female general manager. She ranks as my second favorite boss, ever. She was confident, decisive, and understood people. While at the same restaurant, I worked for a less confident, extraordinarily decisive, and less understanding woman--we butted heads quite a bit.
Before I move on, let me tell you about the greatest boss I have ever had--Tom Mitchell. This man will forever live in my memory as the best manager of people I have ever known. He understood that in order for him to succeed, his team had to trust that he would "go to bat" for them. His success was not tied to revenue or standards, but to our committment to him.
In looking at effective leaders, the restaurant boss and Tom Mitchell reflect what I believe great leaders have. It is not about whether one is a male or a female, but whether or not they possess the characteristics that other people want to follow.
Do the trust their employees? Do they listen to their employees? Do they fight for their employees? Too many principals today have become pawns of the Central Offices. I can't blame them. When $100,000 is riding on their willingness to cooperate with an ineffective Central Office, it is hard to blame them for going along. Thing about Alex Rodriguez--I'll lambast him for taking the money because of my principles, but I can't blame him: $250,000,000 is a lot of cash.
I want to work for leaders who understand that the success of the school is not in their hands; it is in the teachers' hands. I want to work for leaders who understand that teachers are more important than the Central Office. I want to work for a leader who will take a risk to support the people who make his job simpler.


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