An obvious sign of a bad Principal would be assistant principals leaving every other year, right?

How would you respond as the HR Director if this principle has an annual habit of asking you to post new AP positions because they keep leaving? You might start thinking maybe you should be posting a principal position instead. You might also be surprised to find out the superintendent keeps rewarding this principle and celebrating their success. So what’s going on?

I know a high school principal in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area who has been in his position just under a decade and has replaced his cadre of assistant principals several times. The reason? They have all left to become successful principles of their own school communities all over the Midwest. Some have been promoted in his school district as the best candidate for Principal right in their backyard.

You see, this principle knows how to build a strong bench. He thrives on being a leader who is constantly building up new leaders who add value to adults and students teams across the fruited plain. This one high school principal is on a mission to fill as many schools as possible with amazing leaders who bring out the best in adults and kids.

How do they do it? They don’t tell, sell, and hope it gels. Instead they come alongside the adults and develop their areas of expertise as partners and helping students learn. They listen, ask questions, and help adults connect the dots so they can be self responsible leaders among their staff. And when adults experience real motivating learning, it’s much easier to share it with the students and their families.

There’s nothing they can’t do, together. After a couple years of practice, this principal opens the door and encourages them to leave. He wants them to continue multiplying leaders across the nation one assistant principal at a time. This kind of turnover in HR is regrettable in one way, yet is a sign of strength in the district.

Sure they’d prefer to keep them a while but while this level of talent is on the team, they do amazing work. This principal keeps asking my team to help him find another emerging leader worth his time to invest in as the next amazing graduate of his informal AP Academy.

If you’re not convinced turning over emerging leaders so often is good. Ask yourself a revealing question: how many people have you coached to become your peers as a leader? If these people were in a large room at a conference for example, how many people could you point out who used to work under you and now lead and multiply teams of their own?

This principle is one of my favorite school leaders to talk with because he is so enthusiastic about learning. Not just learning for students, but for the adults who coach the teachers, who help students connect the dots for their own lives.

And when this high school principal finally decides to retire, there will be no panic to find his replacement. There will probably be two or three already in the building ready to go. That’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Life is a team sport. Make sure your team captains are coaching their replacement.