Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Principals Must Be Visible to Stand out from the Crowd

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Principals Must Be Visible to Stand out from the Crowd

Article excerpt

Successful senior leaders spend their time cementing contacts, both outside their colleges and within them

Are we expecting too much from principals? This may sound like an odd question, since a common view held by many people working in colleges is that those in exalted leadership positions - generally out of sight of the masses - must be having an easy time.

Looked at from the outside, such a view of senior managers may not, at first, appear to be devoid of validity.

Lecturers are generally known to be doing something: lecturing. Their whereabouts are known. Most of the week is predetermined and timetabled. Lecturers may liken their activities in the classroom to the stage ("What time are you on?"), but while marking, preparation and electronic communication all appear to be less visible, most of these activities take place in shared offices.

Separate lives

The lives of principals and senior management teams are different. They will typically be located apart. If not in a separate building, they are likely to inhabit larger offices, perhaps with the protection of at least one personal assistant.

Where do these two wings of college life meet? In committees. These are often not favoured by lecturers, possibly because when they are in front of senior colleagues, they lack the influence they usually exert in the classroom. But just as students may judge the quality of teaching in the classroom, it is the senior staff, often chairing meetings, who are most likely to be judged in this environment.

This is merely the beginning of the visible activities of principals. They will also be meeting with students, visitors and others, giving awards and smiling for all those pictures we see in the college prospectus, magazines and on websites.

Outside interests

For all the publicity, however, this is really low-level engagement. …

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