Quick Nav


Quick Search




Pin it

Micromanage vs. Laissez-faire

There are two extremes to educational leadership that nearly all principals fall somewhere between.

The first is the Micromanaging Principal. This principal:

  • Takes charge.
  • Makes a point of being actively involved in all aspects of the program.
  • Believes in a firm ownership of responsibility and often refers to the school and its staff as “my school” and “my employees.”
  • Believes that good leadership requires him or her to be out front in all situations.
  • Feels compelled to take immediate corrective action to every problem.
  • Often is very effective in getting things done.
  • Has characteristics of obsessive compulsion and tends to burn out early from exhaustion.
  • Tends to keep others from rising or demonstrating leadership competence.
  • Has little faith in committees and places neither authority nor responsibility with others.


The second is the Laissez-faire Principal. This principal:

  • Assigns clear tasks to others and then steps out of the road.
  • Tends to use terms more in tune to “our” conditions than “my” conditions.
  • Steps out of the limelight into the shadows.
  • Is comfortable letting events develop and run their course before taking remedial action.
  • Accepts that getting things done is messy and time consuming.
  • Is better able to accept imperfection and keeps from overstressing the small details.
  • Allows others to rise or fall while showing their own ability for leadership.
  • Assigns nearly all tasks to a group, giving them the authority and resources to accomplish the assignment then holding them accountable.

Few, if any, principals are clearly at one extreme or the other in all events. In truth, most principals’ leadership is somewhere in the middle with situational conditions driving them toward one end or the other. The trick of good leadership is to decide where to be when. To do this, you must first make conscious efforts to:

  1. Determine your own basic leadership style. What you want to accomplish, and what conditions you can tolerate and manage.
  2. Determine you staff’s expectations for you and how they want to see you lead. This requires that you assess their abilities and leadership experiences, acceptance of authority for projects, and willingness to assume responsibility.
  3. On a case-by-case basis, use the information you identify in response to the first two items to decide where your leadership needs to be on each issue.


As an educator, after a year two in the principal’s chair at any one school, you should be able to take control of those issues that need personal supervision and members of your faculty should be in tune to assume growing leadership roles as you turn over larger and more complex issues to them.

See more at NorthStar for Principals.

Thought for the Week

Understanding why students may be reluctant to engage is a crucial first step in countering the behavior and opening the door to full participation and learning success.

Share Our Page

We're in your corner!

Sign up to have the weekly publication
delivered to your inbox.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Share Your Tips & Stories

Share your story and the tips you have for getting through this challenging time. It can remind a fellow school leader of something they forgot or your example can make a difficult task much easier and allow them to get more done in less time. We may publish your comments.

Sign up for our Newsletter

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.