Home' Independence : Independence Vol 35 No 1 May 2010 Contents 54 Independence Vol 35 No 1 May 10
level of job satisfaction of Principals that
counterbalances the stresses.
There is anecdotal evidence to support the
view that Principalship is very satisfying;
the emotional/intellectual nature of the
work and the importance of leading a
team working on a common purpose
(Thomson et al 2002) form the foundation
of this satisfaction. Principals refer to
their role as answering a calling and
making a contribution, and data collected
in Australia on why teachers applied for
the position of Principal revealed that
intrinsic reasons and altruistic motives
were much more important than any
extrinsic reason (Su et al 2003).
Little attention has been given to
promoting the role of Principal as decision
maker and leader of quality learning
and school improvement (Chapman
2005). Principals rarely talk up the great
satisfaction they receive from leading
a school and developing others. The
emphasis in conversation is often on
the unattractiveness of the position of
Principal; however, surveys indicate that
the majority of Principals actually find
their work very rewarding (Collins 2006).
While there is a case for Principals to
promote the incentives associated with
school leadership, potential Principal
aspirants also need to be given the
opportunity to experience some of the joy
that comes from successfully meeting the
challenges of the Principal’s role.
Developing a working
There appears to be little research on
whether the reduction in Principal
aspirants can be linked to the trend in
the 1990s of developing flatter leadership
structures in schools, specifically the
removal of the role of the single Deputy
to several leaders at the same level in the
school hierarchy. Could it be that the
more narrow the experience at this high
level, the less likely that the experiences
are adequate for Principal leadership and
have less value as an ‘apprenticeship’ for
the role? It is quite significant that most
beginning Principals report that there is
a massive divide between the roles and
expectations of the Deputy Principal and
that of a Principal of a school.
A very good working relationship
between Deputy and Principal is vital if
both the goal of easing the Principal’s
role and the goal to develop leadership
capacity of the Deputy are to be achieved.
Principals who work closely with a highly
effective Deputy report, with great relief,
how fortunate this is and how essential it
is for their effectiveness in their own roles.
However, Principals and Deputies can
be their own worst enemies in this area.
Attention to school culture, egos and the
like is necessary for this model to work.
The Principal needs to be willing to share
the power and the credit and the Deputy
needs to be willing to do the ‘hard stuff’,
to work the long hours and to accept
‘the buck stops here’ accountability by
avoiding delegating upwards.
The relationship can work if there is
no doubt about the authority of the
Deputy, that the Principal and Deputy
stand as one, and that the Principal is not
threatened by having a competent Deputy.
Good communication is vital and the
hierarchy in the relationship needs to be
accepted by both parties. One Principal
reported that although she could have
asked her Deputy to do more work, she
knew how busy she was and did not wish
to overload her! Yet, the most significant
thing that any Principal can do is ‘let go’
of certain responsibilities and trust to a
Deputy. She may have been more willing
to ‘let go’ if she knew her Deputy was not
overburdened by daily administration and
was in training for the Principalship and
needed to have these experiences.
In the past, education systems have
relied heavily on self-selection in the
identification of future Principals.
However, in the area of career
development, it is more appropriate to
think in terms of the dual responsibility
of both the organisation and the
individual in career development
processes (Lacey 2003). Lacey argues
that a focus on this dual responsibility
should be the development of more
formalised succession planning
programs in education.
We are certainly seeing more professional
development programs that support
those who aspire to leadership and
management roles, but still there are
really no coordinated programs or
structures in place to identify potential
leaders (Lacey 2004). Although Lacey
has made a number of recommendations
relating to identifying potential leaders,
Chapman (2005) notes that individual
professionals need to take responsibility
for their own careers ensuring lifelong
professional learning. Both researchers
agree that a more systematic and
collaborative approach to ensuring the
development of future leadership capacity
is needed, which may include considering
assessment centres for leadership,
profiling instruments, Principal scouts and
internship (Chapman 2005:20).
One suggestion for a way forward to
ensure a supply of quality applicants of
Without specific strategies designed to
effectively challenge the Herculean model
of Principalship, an increase in professional
learning opportunities for Principal aspirants is
unlikely to have a great impact.
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