Changing responsibilities of a Principal in this fast-changing world
Sohan Tiwade

When in 1953, Edmund Hillary and Norgay Tensing, for the first time in human history, scaled Mt. Everest, they were asked of their unimaginable feat. Hillary, in reply, said the memorable words, “It’s not the mountains we conquer but ourselves.”

Indeed when we grow as human beings, as leaders, as principals, we positively impact our societies, families, our institutions. The Japanese popularized this concept by the term ‘Kaizen’, which meant small significant daily improvement overtime bear monumental results. As we explore the subject of changing responsibilities of a Principal in the fast-changing world, we cannot overlook this important concept of improving oneself daily, being open to change and adapting to influence our educational institutions in a positive manner. So, what are some of the changing responsibilities of a Principal of an Institution in the fast-changing world?

  1. Critical Thinking – Critical thinking involves breaking down the large into small parts to understand it better. The first duty of the Principal of an educational institution is to understand better the working of systems and policies in the institution. As a leader and the Principal, one has to ask, ‘How does my institution work?’ ‘How are the policies affecting the outcome?’ ‘How is the education disseminated in the institution and whether it is being assimilated by the students in the right way?’ ‘Is my staff happy?’ ‘Are they better equipped to deliver effective teaching-learning process?’ ‘How’s the world around and its culture, technology, people affecting the education process or students’ mind’. If the world around us is changing fast, we have to first, as leaders, understand what’s changing, what has changed already and what will be the future change. As the head of your organization, you have to understand how all these parts go on to make the whole, how they work independently and interdependently to affect the overall picture.

Henry Ford revolutionized the production system of assembling a big car by breaking the process into small parts. He was the one who came up with the assembly line process that made the production of cars more efficient and faster. He said, “Nothing is particularly hard if you break it down into small jobs.

  1. Creative Thinking – While Critical thinking has to do with ‘what is’- the present, Creative thinking has to do with the ‘how you want to shape the future’ – the future. Stephen Covey says, “Everything is created twice, first in the imagination and then in reality”. One of the most important qualities to qualify as a leader is to have a vision that has to do with the future. As a Principal of an education institute in a fast-changing world, you have to have a vision of how your institute will evolve in the future. If, as the leader of an education institute, you do not have a vision of evolving into a better institute, your institute will be a victim of the changing world around you. It is exactly like piloting a plane; most of the time, the pilots will tell you that it will be off the track, and the pilots are manoeuvring it to be on track and reach the desired destination.

Changes around us are inevitable, but it is up to us whether to go with the flow or create a new track of excellence. Strategic Management is what the heads of the institute should involve in. Have a vision for your institute as to where you want to see it in the future. Have a mission to be clear why you exist as an institute. Have long term and short-term goals. See that everyone is aware of these things. Build your policies, your systems around it. Today when online education is one of the options to disseminate knowledge, how could you use the same and balance it with offline classes to bring about a synergy that helps students learn better. Can online classes be alternated with offline so that the student-teacher ratio in a classroom can be maintained to desirable levels?

  1. Communicating– Communicating as a leader is usually thought to be a top-down (vertical) order where the communication flows from the head or the Principal to the staff and students. In the 21st century world, this scenario has to change. The first quality of the 21st Century Principal is to give ears. Listen to your teachers, listen to your staff, listen to the parents, and listen to your stakeholders. When we listen, we get feedback as to how we are performing, what changes need to be made, what is working and what isn’t. We may understand many of the people’s actions are not intentional but incidental. We may understand that two people can look at the same thing and see two different things, and it is not logical but psychological!

Next, you have to consider two aspects, viz. confidence and consideration, when you communicate to your subordinates down the line. Be confident when you have to say something but at the same time, be considerate that you do not hurt the respect of them as human beings. Encourage intra-departmental and inter-departmental communication in your organization. Let people come together regularly; let them share their sorrows, joys, their insights, their suggestions. A healthy organization is where people are not afraid to say what they have to express, but at the same time, they respect the dignity of the person to whom they are communicating.

  1. Collaborating – This is another desirable quality that the 21st-century leader of the head of an institution should possess. Collaborating is working together to produce something of a greater magnitude. In the rapidly evolving world, it is important to see that everyone is going in the same direction. You have to possess the skill to bring people together for a common purpose. Organizations exist beyond profit-making purposes. An educational institute exists to shape the future generation of our society, nation and world. You have to see that everyone on your bus is going in the same direction. You also have to ensure that the right people are seated on the right seat. You have designated people the right responsibilities by being able to know people’s passion, skills and knowledge. You have the responsibility to see that you are using the human resource to its full potential. There is an old African saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” When as a leader as the Principal of the Institute, you are able to collaborate your team together, you will be able to multiply the efforts and the output you are giving.

There is another saying, ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand’. This is what happens when there is a lack of collaboration. You won’t be able to stand the vicissitudes of the rapidly changing world if you all are not putting your efforts in the same direction. For this, the leader has to sit with her people, know their aspirations, know their struggles, and know their personal goals. The leader has to show the people how meeting the organizations’ goal will finally also help them fulfil their personal goals. This is one of the methods through which you can bring collaboration among your team. According to Harvard Business Review, Nokia’s long-serving executive team before the buyout was 100% Finnish. In addition, middle managers were afraid of being honest with their bosses. This unhealthy communication culture led to their homogenous leadership team not getting the information they needed, and in the end, Nokia was unable to compete with Silicon Valley’s innovation.

Conclusion– Principles of practising leadership are immutable. They remain the same only in the context in which they have practised changes. The 4 Cs Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Communication and Collaboration are eternal. You cannot argue their importance in the rapidly changing world of 21st century. They are more important than ever. This is a humble attempt to throw light on being an effective leader and principal in the 21st century. Allow me to end with the quote,

“When you are here to serve, we know you are a leader.”

Sohan D. Tiwade,

Corporate Soft Skills Trainer & Professional Speaker, The Edge.

Asst. Prof. Sanjay Ghodawat University.

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