(Originally posted on Eduleadership.)

By Justin Baeder

The principalship is tough work, so it’s no surprise that it both attracts tough-minded people and makes people tougher over time.

It makes sense to be increasingly realistic and pragmatic as you gain experience, but too often we forget a key element of effective leadership: personal regard.

Gruff man with arms folded

Our society is filled with images of leaders who torment their staff: Donald Trump, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, Anna Wintour, Gordon Ramsey, and dozens more.

I don’t know any principals who throw things at their staff, but I have seen, time and again, subtle moves on the part of administrators that undermine personal regard.

When we treat requests from staff as annoyances rather than opportunities to serve, we’re withholding personal regard.

When we judge a lesson without asking any questions, we’re withholding personal regard.

When we take the side of a student or parent before hearing a teacher out, we’re withholding personal regard.

When we don’t bother to find out what’s going on in the lives of our teachers, we’re withholding personal regard.

The alternative?

  • We can see ourselves as servant-leaders rather than bosses
  • We can listen
  • We can seek first to understand, then to be understood, as Steven Covey famously said
  • We can be aware of what’s going on in people’s lives
  • We can look at the enterprise of educating students as a shared responsibility, rather than a battle against our teachers

Personal regard doesn’t mean we lower our standards or ask less of people. It means we care more about people and invest more in them. As a result, we can expect more out of them.

What makes it hard to prioritize personal regard? What do you do to let your staff know you care?

Justin Baeder is Director of The Principal Center and host of Principal Center Radio. He helps school administrators increase their impact on student learning through the High-Performance Instructional Leadership Network. Follow Justin on Twitter at @eduleadership