When the Ministry Of Education carries out a regular school survey, the most striking aspect is the item on the schools climate.
Not all schools that score highly on school morale attain remarkable academic results. Conversely, not all schools that have a low score for morale register poor academic performances.
An effective school is one that has a good balance of academic performance and a nurturing and positive environment, with all its stakeholders committing their efforts to the same purpose willingly.
People who work together for a common purpose can achieve wonders. The selection of the right leader to lead the team is of utmost importance to this endeavour.
It is very likely that the principal of an effective school has the following personal attributes: integrity, sincerity and a positive attitude, and practises up-to-date management styles.
In my experience, the effective principal is one who lives by the SCORE principles:
This means working together to produce a combined result that is greater than the sum of separate efforts. The effective principal who motivates his people to work with him, by helping them to do their best and showing them how they can add value, is one who synergises.
Good leaders do not push; they pull. Pulling people together enhances the spirit of comradeship and develops the school into a place of laughter, tears, fun and serious play. This is the training ground where the rough diamonds are polished.
Besides having a vision, a catalytic leader is able to see the value in others. The principal needs to encourage teachers to be innovative and creative. He needs to defer his judgment and learn to accept other peoples ideas without prejudice. Only then can the school progress.
A good leader realises that every effective school owes its life and success to the birth of exciting ideas.
This is the capacity to see opportunity in every difficulty, and not difficulty in every opportunity. An optimistic leader has a positive attitude that will influence his team.
Schools are never dull places. There will be ups and downs, yet teaching and learning continues. A pessimistic principal is chained by his own fears and lacks the enthusiasm required to propel the school and teachers to greater achievements.
Without an enthusiastic principal, there will be low morale and a lack of confidence among the staff, which can result in disloyalty and disharmony. An optimistic principal is armed with the stubbornness to believe that crises are learning opportunities.
Principals must make time to reflect on past experiences and evaluate their impact so that they can strategise and plot their next move. Some often plod on without reflecting on whether processes have been carried out well and how things can be done better or differently.
This involves giving power and authority to subordinates to enable them to develop in their careers more effectively. There are leaders who will pull down everybody to climb higher up the hierarchy, and there are leaders who ensure that others rise with them.
The latter is characteristic of an effective principal. Effective leaders are confident that empowerment does not promote anarchy in the workplace.
By empowering his teachers, the principal demonstrates that he cares for his team and wants them to become independent and thinking individuals who work with him to fulfil the schools common goals.
Once a principal is prepared to empower his team, he must delegate some responsibilities and tasks to his subordinates and trust them to get the job done. Delegating work to others is not abdicating responsibility. The principal must continue to monitor the assigned tasks closely to ensure that the agreed outcomes are achieved.
Both parties may experience some frustration in the process, but as a leader, the principal must realise that this is an important way to provide his staff with learning opportunities.
As former American president Dwight Eisenhower once said of leadership: "[It is] the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it."
Industrialist Andrew Carnegie, one of the United States most respected philanthropists, was renowned for his ability to produce millionaires from among his employees. He said he worked with people the same way gold was mined. A lot of dirt had to be removed before a small amount of gold was found.
Effective school principals can bring about change in their staff and ultimately, the schools they run by inspiring and motivating them to discover their attributes.