Does a school respond in knee-jerk fashion to hourly stimuli or does it have a purposeful design structuring its life? The school's principal directly influences the answer to this question. Gordon Donaldson puts aside current books and courses which neatly compartmentalize the ideal principalship. Instead he examines the everyday realities of the position. Donaldson captures the insides of the job--the principal's interpersonal work life. Drawing from his own experience and contemporary studies, he identifies and examines three crucial functions of high school leaders: choosing activities that serve the school's purposes, identifying and enlisting capable partners, and developing and maintaining productive relationships. As our expectations for principals and their schools rise, and as current literature continues to prescribe unrealistic roles for principals, Learning to Lead takes a new look at the principal's fundamental function--facilitating faculty and staff to teach and nurture children. This is a hands-on source for academicians and graduate students examining the organizational dynamics of secondary schools and leadership.
This detailed study of the complex factors impinging on the American high school principal begins with a synopsis of current knowledge. It then describes the three functions, making use of extensive primary data collected from the author's faculty and staff. The final three chapters explore themes that have emerged from the preceding examination of leadership dynamics: lessons for successful fulfillment of each leadership function, paradoxes complicating a principal's effort to order and rationalize his/her world, and personal qualities necessary for successful high school leadership. Donaldson closes with recommendations for the education and continuing development of principals. This volume portrays a school principal within his school context and introduces a method of gathering feedback about leadership effectiveness from school faculty and staff.