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27th February 2017
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27th February 2017

Taking the lead

Herling Vusi Masuku

Being a principal is not just a position; it is everything needed in order to drive an institution to achieve its objectives. It is a position that requires certain qualities, skills and approaches, which why not every principal passes the rigorous tests associated with the job.

The school reflects who is in charge

A tutor once remarked that when you look at a particular school, it reveals the type of the principal in charge. Things people say about the school reflect the person who manages it. If the school is doing well, produces good results, the staff work very hard, parents are happy about their children’s performances and enrolment increases, the principal will get the credit.  It is a positive sign and tells you that the principal is doing things well. Similarly, when things are not going as expected and learners are performing badly, the blame is usually laid at the principal’s door.

So, without question, principals should know and be familiar with the functions and management and leadership roles of the job. I have identified five aspects that I think may assist principals to do their work effectively:

  • Put systems in place

No organisation can operate without the necessary plans. In order to succeed and ensure school activities take place in a manner that benefits all, there must specific policies in place. These help prevent emotional reaction to certain issues, and ensure consistency, even when the principal’s decisions appear to favour certain people above others.  And when the planning is done, effective implementation and monitoring must follow, and this should be non-negotiable!

  • Manage and lead your staff

Your staff expects you to provide leadership. Nobody can do it for you. To lead means to influence the people you are leading towards the realisation of the school’s objectives. You are expected to blow fresh air into the system. You cannot lead when you are seated in your office. Leadership requires an active, visible person with vigour. This reminds me of my colleague, Mr Masondo, who was the principal and was also a grade 12 maths teacher at Thomas Nhlabathi Secondary School at Embalenhle, Mpumalanga. He was able to fulfil his duties as a principal and also taught maths exceptionally well; his school was the best performer in the area. This was all made possible was because he led by example. A true leader must lead, not be led. A principal with an inferiority complex provides poor leadership.

  • Communicate with your staff

You are not leading robots — you are leading human beings. You are required to speak to your staff at all times, and they must listen to you. If you keep mum and just do things, they will do likewise. For school plans to be successfully implemented, you need to speak about them. There are many means you can use to communicate with your staff, such as meetings, morning briefings and development sessions. If you have a tendency to rely on issuing instructions by way of messages, remember, there is no guarantee that your staff will read them. Direct interaction is crucial.

  • Be an appreciative person

Criticising your staff positively is only acceptable if it is aimed at developing people. Excessive and negative criticism is destructive, and will not yield positive results. It should be avoided at all costs. Your staff wants to be appreciated and valued for their good work, small or big. It really means a lot, considering we are living in a world full of challenges. Your staff will be grateful if you inspire, motivate and boost their morale. Constructive criticism should apply to all, not just to a selected few.

  • Be an informed manager

This is an information era and as a leader there is no excuse to say “I did not know about this” or “I was not aware of” a particular matter. You must be like an eagle and fly above your staff in terms of being informed. Most educators are studying through the department’s skills development programmes or studying at different institutions. This is personal development and it is empowering. You, too, must lead the way in this regard.


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