What Not To Do / Education  / What not to do as a newly appointed Principal
Mary Daly school principle

What not to do as a newly appointed Principal

Do not go on a Solo run

Establish teams and gain valuable knowledge from those who are more experienced than you which will engender trust and respect with your colleagues, build relationships and build your own confidence. You must remember that each person has their own ability and strengths and you must learn to work effectively with each type. Learn to listen effectively to others, value feedback, make sure that everyone is on board, focussed and understands your vision.

Do not be afraid to ‘think outside the box’

Do not put limitations on yourself and your teachers, students, parents. Be brave, be courageous, be resourceful and find creative ways to meet their needs when issues arise. Encourage your teachers to do the same. Encourage your students to do the same. Encourage your parents to do the same. Be a problem solver. Take risks. Be solution focused. People may feel uncomfortable but empower others to solve their problems or come to you with a ‘suggested solution’ to discuss.

Do not avoid conflict

Most people don’t like conflict. Do not be afraid to see how helpful it can be in certain situations. Conflict can provide a deeper understanding of people and allows for a deeper connection with colleagues. It can also allow people to understand your boundaries, your morals and your belief system.

Don’t make my mistake and remain silent in order to avoid conflict, this will only create more problems.

What not to do if you don’t know

School leadership is challenging. Showing vulnerability is OK. Don’t pretend that you know everything, you don’t have to have all the answers or to be strong in every area. When you are asked a question to which you do not know the answer, be honest and don’t pretend! It isn’t always easy.

Learning from my Failures

Remember, the school community depends on you being a strategist who is always focused on growing the school to it’s best.  Since the moment, that I was named principal of my school, I was busy thinking about all the things that I was going to do. Upon reflection, my first piece of advice is to slow down. Take a moment to think about what mistakes you don’t want to make, as you begin this exciting journey.

Failure 1

On becoming Principal, due to my own lack of experience, it’s only natural that I wanted to meet everyone, answer every phone call, have all the answers.

I began to realise that I could not do it all myself, I could not have all the answers! You had to make the final decisions! I needed advice and support.

My biggest mistake, was trying to do everything. I needed to develop teams, I needed to empower others, I needed to invest in people.

Failure 2

Another mistake was, I didn’t consult with the teachers. I learned very quickly that lack of planning in relation to introducing mixed ability was paramount in getting teachers on board.

This is what you do! I did not provide the support and direction on how to approach the classes effectively. I should have sold it the teachers and had a discussion on the advantages of this approach. I should have encouraged them to see this challenge as an opportunity, to grow, develop, adapt, problem solve and learn.


Taking time to reflect, cultivating leadership in the school community, improving instruction to enable teachers to teach at their best and students to learn effectively, has been my greatest learning. I know that you will learn from my failures.

Top Tip

Remember, the school community depends on you being a strategist who is always focused on growing the school, to be the best. You are only human, take care of yourself and always prioritise 10 minutes in your office before work to get yourself together .

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