8 Qualities of Effective Principals

Research consistently shows that the most important person in the measured success of any school is the principal.  But what makes a good principal?  My conversations with people about this topic have produced as many questions as answers.

© 2008 Eric E Castro. Creative Commons. Click here for full citation (#14).

© 2008 Eric E Castro. Creative Commons. Click here for full citation (#14).

Do you know what you think to be the model principal?  Perhaps a conversation with this person will let you know that you have jumped to a conclusion.  Better yet, the person may say to you, “I feel totally inadequate for this job.  I am just struggling to find my way forward.”

Research, however, has produced a plethora of information regarding the principal–his role, his leadership style, and even his qualities.  The research findings given below (Stronge, Richard, & Catano, 2008)  are meant to be a “jumping off” point as you consider the qualities of an effective principal.

Quality #1 Instructional Leadership

The principal fosters the success of all students by facilitating the development, communication, implementation, and evaluation of a shared vision of learning that reflects excellence.  (Stronge, Richard, & Catano, 2008)

Quality #2 School Climate

The principal fosters a safe and nurturing school environment so that all students can be successful.  Shared vision is absolutely necessary for an effective school; the principal collaboratively develops this vision with the school stakeholders.

Quality #3 Personnel Administration

The principal selects, develops, supports, and retains quality instructional and support staff.  The principal must shepherd his staff in a manner similar to his expectations for teachers developing their students.

Quality #4 Teacher Supervision

The principal conducts effective evaluations of teachers and other staff in order to support staff development and school improvement.  School improvement is contingent upon staff development.  Staff development is a result of a principal’s vision and efforts to impact both his staff and the school’s culture.

Quality #5 Organizational Management

The principal allows for the success of all students by managing and overseeing the school’s operation and resources.

Quality #6 Communications

The principal fosters the success of all students through effective collaboration with all stakeholders–i.e. parents, students, faculty, and board.  Meaningful communications are necessary for effective operation of any school

Quality #7 Professionalism

The principal fosters the success of all students by demonstrating and expecting integrity and ethical behavior from all stakeholders.  Sad to say, but many Christian school leaders lack integrity; ethics–principles for principals–are foundational to effectively leading a school.

Quality #8 Student Achievement

The principal leads so that students demonstrate acceptable and measurable success for all students.  The ultimate goal of any school must be student achievement; this achievement must not be viewed as only academic progress, but in biblical worldview, advanced problem-solving skills, social and spiritual development, etc.

So, you’ve heard the age-old question:  which comes first, the chicken or the egg?  That same type question can be asked here:  which comes first, the effective principal or the effective school?  Hard to say, but one thing is for sure–effective schools must have effective principals!  When a school loses an effective leader of learning (principal), it will begin to slide towards mediocrity.

So, can you add to our list?  What is another quality of effective principals?  Perhaps you know or have served under a highly effective leader of learning–what quality set him apart as effective?  

You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Stronge, J., Richard, H., & Carano, N.  (2008).  Qualities of Effective Principals.  Alexandria, VA:  ASCD.

Interested in getting your copy of this book?  Click below!

Edward is the founder and managing editor of Focus on Christian Education. He also serves as the Executive Director of the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools.