5 Levels of Principalship

26 Feb

When I hear of teachers talk about principals who rule as a dictator I can’t help but cringe on the inside. You know the type of principal I’m talking about, the one who would rather hit you over the head with the teacher handbook and board policy than to smile and say good morning. I believe the principal should serve as the working captain of the educational team instead of the autocratic coach on the sideline calling all the plays. I believe the principal sets the tone and the atmosphere of a school, whether that atmosphere is positive or negative most often times falls on the shoulders of the lead learner, the principal. The best way to create a postive atmosphere is to lead through influence.

John C. Maxwell has just written a new book entitled The 5 Levels of Leadership. His basic premise is that influence is gained with people in levels. Every person who leads others has to start at the bottom level with another person and work his or her way up to higher levels one at a time. I believe these leadership principles absolutely without question apply to school administrators. I’m going to summarize these levels as I see them as a principal.


Position is the lowest level of leadership. You have the title of principal and people follow because they have to. Everything is wrong with using position to get people to follow. Position is a poor substitute for influence. Principals at this level of leadership rely on rules, regulations, policies and organizational charts to control their people. Principals who make it only to level 1 may be bosses, but they are never leaders. They have subordinates, not team members. Principals at this level have difficulty working with volunteers, younger teachers, and the highly educated. Why? Because positional leaders have no influence, and these types of people tend to be more independent.


On the permission level, people follow because they want to. When you like people and treat them like individuals who have value, you begin to develop influence with them. You develop trust. The agenda for principals on Level 2 isn’t preserving their position. It’s getting to know their faculty and figuring out how to get along with them.

You can like people without leading them, but you cannot lead people well without liking them.


One of the dangers of getting to the permission level is that the principal will stop there. But good principals don’t just create a pleasant working environment. They get things done! Level 3 is based on getting results. Production principals gain influence and credibility, and people begin to follow them because of what they have done for the school. At this level, work gets done, morale improves, student achievement improves, and school improvement goals are achieved.


At this level principals become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others. They use their position, relationships, and productivity to invest in their faculty and develop them until those faculty members become leaders in their own right.
Two things happen on level 4. First, teamwork goes to a very high level. Why? Because the high investment in people deepens relationships, helps people to know one another better and strengthens loyalty. Second, performance increases. Why? Because there are more leaders on the faculty, and they help improve everybody’s performance.


The highest and most difficult level of the principalship is the pinnacle. Only naturally gifted principals ever make it to this level. What do principals do on Level 5? They develop people to become Level 4 principals. They create opportunities that other leaders don’t. They create a legacy in what they do. People follow them because of who they are and what they represent.

The above summary was taken from an article by John C. Maxwell in the November edition of Success Magazine, and was bloggarised by Max Roberts.


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