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Principals have tremendous responsibilities. Just like CEOs, there are times they can become consumed by the enormity of their responsibilities. When a principal feels extreme anxiety on the inside, it rarely produces a charming exterior. Some leaders use fear and intimidation as a way to build a foundation for excellence in their schools. They may believe that being nice is a formula for mediocre performance. The reality is that deciding between being kind and holding people to high expectations is a false choice because there’s a distinction to be made between settling for second-rate performance and being obnoxious.

Consider legendary Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi. Lombardi wasn’t considered a nice guy and yet he’s respected as one of the greatest coaches of all time. He drove his players to be the best they could be, and they loved him for it. Wouldn’t your teachers and staff rather work for a principal committed to the school’s true potential than one who’s only concerned with appearing nice? Creating and maintaining an environment where teachers and staff are expected to grow and be their absolute best requires the passion to lead them beyond their comfort zones. To create an environment where you can develop and maintain high performance through kindness, consider these strategies:

  • Inform potential teachers, staff, and parents that the very best is expected of everyone and that the school operates for a higher calling: changing children’s lives.
  • Confirm that potential teachers, staff, and parents agree to a culture of greatness as they join your team.
  • Show that you can hold people to high expectations without intimidation. Your intentions are important; when your intent is positive, people will know it.
  • Do not tolerate mean-spirited behavior from anyone in your school community.

Ultimately, it’s not a choice between kindness and high performance. It’s a matter of creating an environment where people can achieve their best. People are only human and so there will be times when they have bursts of anger and behave badly. When this happens, be sure you have a process in place to help people work through their differences. Then you can create a school culture that is kind and high performing, caring and positive. It just may not always be nice.



Pallotta, D. (2014, March 12). Be kind to your employees, but don’t always be nice. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/03/be-kind-to-your-employees-but-dont-always-be-nice

Thought for the Week

Simply pulling a strategy “off the shelf” or defaulting to the most recently read article or staff development session topic may not generate the results we seek.

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