Leading the school: the Principal and the School Board

The leadership of the Principal and the School Board is distinct and each contributes to the strength, success and long term sustainability of the school and its performance in different ways.

  • As the executive leader, the Principal’s modus operandi is to make decisions all the time – that is the nature of his or her job.  Depending on the governance structure, the School Board will also make decisions but its characteristic way of leading is to influence, to shape, to nudge, to encourage, to guide, to stimulate, to inspire, to set the pace.
  • The Principal will normally work with and through a team, but in the end, as the most senior executive, he or she takes sole responsibility for decisions made – that is where the buck stops.  The School Board, on the other hand, exercises cooperative leadership as a team of people acting as one.  Although in a School Board, when effectively chaired, individual opinion is heard strongly, in the end and after all the discussion and debate the leadership is one collective voice.
  • The Principal and the School Board hold different ends of the telescope.  For the Principal, the focal point is close to being immediate, the here and now.  And from that closely intense point, he or she will strive to reach out to the future to ensure there is a strategic lens on the decisions that are taken.  The reverse is true for the School Council – for good governance the direction of travel needs right to left thinking.  They are the guardians of the future, forever needing to hold a position of strategic agility.  To be really effective both the Principal and the Board will think hard about the medium and longer-term consequences of decisions taken now.
  • When working to their optimum the leadership of the Principal and the School Board are held in equilibrium with the creative tension between them held taut.  This is only possible when the relationships between the Principal and the School Board, particularly the Chair, are exceptionally strong with high levels of trust, respect and openness.