Characteristics of Great Principals


I have been so lucky to work with good principals throughout my years as a teacher—great principals who supported me. And great principals who encouraged me to be a life-long learner. Honestly, my administration staff has been nothing short of amazing! But COVID happened. And, many of the administration staff who were like family decided it was time for them to retire. 

Cue in the PANIC! Have you ever had some work relationships that ran like clockwork, and then in a hot minute, it was gone? Well, change is not easy, especially this year! So, I have tried to be welcoming to our new principal. But, it isn’t the same. And, she isn’t the same. 

So I knew I needed to fix my mindset and revisit my expectations from a principal. What qualities does my new principal have that will make her great? So, I went to my favorite group of teachers, our Fearless First Grade Facebook group to hear how they described their principals. The teachers were open and honest. They discussed their great and not-so-great principals. Now, I know my new principal has the characteristics required to be a GREAT principal from their comments. Read and see if your principal fits our list of Characteristics of Great Principals too!

Great Principals Build Relationships

Our school leaders need a good team! So principals must work hard to develop trusting relationships. They must be able to connect with several people daily. Plus, having solid relationships with the staff, the parents, and the kids can offset problems. Also, relationships help achieve school visions and promote a positive working environment.

Keywords from Teachers:

  • Kind/Friendly
  • Approachable
  • Listens
  • Gets to Know staff, students, and families

Great Principals Listen

A school principal needs to come across as compassionate and kind. And the staff needs to feel safe approaching them with anything, including problems and ideas. 

Principals must listen to the people around them, including students and families. So, great principals show active listening, listening to the perspectives of a variety of people, and going beyond their own sets of ideas.

Keywords from Teachers:

  • Compassionate
  • Easy to Talk to
  • Understanding
  • Caring

Ability to Empower and Lead

Principals must help the teaching staff reach their fullest potential. People follow influential leaders because they trust them. They share leadership responsibilities with the right team for any job. We want principals who recognize our skill sets and appreciate our greatness. And, they seek opportunities for teachers and staff to grow and improve. Principals who perform at their greatest can set the bar high for their teachers and students. A school is a team of professionals who work together. Everyone wants to achieve the best for the students and families they serve.

Keywords from Teachers:

  • Knowledgeable
  • Respectful
  • Delegates effectively

Communication is Important!

Let’s face it: principals must deal with so many people and problems in the day. Being a direct communicator but maintaining a sense of kindness and humor is critical. Teachers want to be given clear messages to understand their expectations. With communication comes confidentiality and discretion. Principals must hold firm to a high level of professionalism. No teacher wants their information, evaluations, and conversations put on blast for others to hear!

Keywords from Teachers:

  • Sense of humor
  • Easy to talk to
  • Clear messages
  • Clear intent
  • Approachable

Support, Support, Support!

The best school principals see that the teachers they work with are trained professionals. Principals should encourage collaboration. They should provide time for teacher planning. And they should offer constructive criticism alongside meaningful praise. Great principals have their teachers’ backs and never give up on the students or staff. “Teachers quit principals, not schools.”

Keywords from Teachers:

  • Helpful
  • Team Player
  • Remembers what it is like to be in the classroom
  • Empathetic towards workloads


Great Principals are Present

Principals must be seen in the classrooms, the gym, the lunchroom, and the playground. By walking around their school, they can observe their teachers and students, foster meaningful relationships, and gain tremendous insight into the ins and outs of their school. They should know what the teachers are teaching and what the students are learning. Being visible shows principals who are invested in their building.

Keywords from Teachers:

  • Involved
  • Visible
  • Knows the staff and students
  • Real
  • Decisive

Does your administration make the cut? Are you lucky enough to have a principal who supports you? One who is a champion for your co-workers, your students, and YOU? If not, put your communication skills to work and share with your principal what you need to feel supported, encouraged, and trusted! Not comfortable doing it alone?  Send them to for some great blogs on your behalf!


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Welcome! I’m Emily, Founder of Education to the Core. We are all about helping K-2 teachers by providing unlimited access to affordable printables for every subject area.