10 Leadership Actions that Make Great School Principals

Here are ten leadership actions—and ten popular blog posts—that explore the many aspects of effective school leadership. Dive in today and jumpstart your leadership skills.
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1/11/24
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At New Leaders, we believe school leadership matters. In fact, we were founded on that very principle more than two decades ago. We have been developing transformational K12 educational leaders ever since. 

Research confirms that effective principals remove barriers to student success, accounting for 25 percent of a school’s impact on student learning. In fact, the impact of an above-average principal compared to an average principal can be as much as 20 percentage points on student achievement. But what makes an effective principal, you ask?

Our experience—and independent research—reveal that many qualities contribute to the success of school and district leaders. We hear the same for leaders across the country. Here is a list of ten leadership actions to deepen your practice in this school year and the next.


1. Adaptive Leadership

One quality great principals possess is leaning into adaptive leadership—a method that helps them and their school community thrive in the face of constant change. Is it a mindset, a practice, or both? Read: Adaptive Leadership: How Great Principals Lead for Change

2. Time Management

Everyone could use a few more minutes or hours in their day—and we know that’s especially true for school and district leaders. We’ve put together a list of our top tips to make the most of your time. Check them out here: 6 Time Management Tips Every K-12 Leader Should Know

3. Data-Driven Instruction

When gathered and analyzed effectively, student data elevates instructional practices and improves student learning. Here are a few ways visionary school leaders can be the data champions of their schools. Dive into: Data-Driven Instruction: What Is a School Leader’s Role?

4. Equity-Focused Leadership

Education leaders who are serious about educational equity are continuously learning and pushing themselves to grow into better, more effective change agents. Here are five equity-driven leadership actions to implement today.

5. Positive School Culture

Building a strong school and district culture is the foundation of effective schools. To do so requires consistent and intentional effort. Here are resources to support you. For more insights, read: Creating Safe and Brave Spaces: Fostering Psychological Safety In Schools

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6. Instructional Leadership

Strong instructional leaders can add up to three additional months of learning for students every year. Build teacher capacity and increase student achievement with these instructional leadership actions in math and English Language Arts.

7. High-Expectations Culture

One quality of a great principal is having the belief that your school, students, and teachers can perform at exceedingly high levels—and creating the conditions to make it happen. Here’s how to balance belief and action. Read more: How Great Principals Drive High Expectations.

8. Team Development

Strong leadership is an indicator of school success, but it doesn’t need to be in a vacuum. Here are five important qualities to look for when building leadership teams. For more on how to build teams, consider: 4 Reflection Questions to Build More Effective Teams.

9. Meaningful Relationships

So much of school leadership depends on being able to build strong and lasting relationships with the diverse groups within your school community. We break down these groups—and the actions school leaders can take for each. Explore more about family and community engagement: How Strong K-12 Principals are ‘Lead Relationship Builders’.

10. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness, sometimes called a ‘hidden superpower,’ is essential for K12 leaders to cultivate. Learn how to do the inner work, so your leadership actions (external work) deliver better student outcomes. Check out: How to Build Self-Awareness and Improve Your K-12 Leadership.

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