In The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact, Michael Fullan discusses ways to manage a school and the roles that principals and administrators can play. Interestingly, there are myths about the effectiveness of some approaches to the role of teachers and school managers. For example, stakeholders can overestimate the potential of individual roles in the impact on the general education systems and propose reforms through the introduction of new positions or changes in the composition of teachers. But this approach does not justify itself, as educational institutions are increasingly using a systematic approach and operating under existing plans and guidelines.
The purpose of this book is to describe the role of the principal and how they can maximize their impact to improve the performance of educational institutions. The paper covers a wide range of issues about the role and capabilities of the director, including the wrong choices for driving policy, the types of leadership, and the relationship between autonomy and micromanagement in directing changes. Three keys to maximizing the principal’s impact are discussed, including the responsibility of leading the learning process, being the district and system player, and the potential of becoming the agent of change.
The authors use the methods of multiple examples regarding how the mentioned goals can be attained, and provide the argumentation based on the scholarly research. The leadership theories are applied, as well as perspectives on the social role and outlooks concerning the state regulation of the educational system, relationships with the community stakeholders, and learners. The most compelling results discovered through research include the new perspective on the principal’s leadership and approaches for implementing reforms. Therefore, the book is a handy tool for principals and administrators aiming to improve the educational processes through a better understanding of their roles and duties.
Reflection on the Book
The part of the book dedicated to the wrong choices to driving policy contains plenty of helpful insights on introducing the reforms. For instance, Fullan (2014) emphasizes that there are four wrong choices in the fields of accountability, individualistic solutions, technology, and fragmented policies, concluding with a discussion of “more prospective drivers of change” (p. 26). According to the author, “inadequate understanding of accountability implies the requirement for subordination to improve focus and curriculum performance” (Fullan, 2014, p. 26). The author says that the tightening of controls and the ‘stick and carrot’ method has the potential only for a short time, and is useless in middle- and long-term perspectives. Instead, Fullan advises establishing the developmental approach for improved educational efficiency.
Wrong application of individualistic solutions means that often managers overly rely on the personal responsibilities of teachers and their professional success. However, even teachers who introduce new or revised learning practices cannot cope with the fallacies of educational systems. Fullan (2014) recommends changing policies, decreasing the role of “back-end accountability,” and giving more attention to “collaborative work and teaching” (p. 28). Interestingly, the wrong approach to introducing technology into the educational process suggests emphasizing investments and acquisitions, with the lack of attention to how smart technologies could be creatively applied for improved classwork and communication. Instead, Fullan (2014) recommends combining new technologies with new pedagogies based on “dynamic interactions between teachers and students leading to the generation of productive innovations” (p. 36). At the same time, the misunderstanding of educational policies includes the widespread application of fragmented strategies.
Such strategies are created by different people, cannot be perceived as a set, and are incomprehensible. No less important, Fullan (2014) criticizes the instructional leadership style saying that “a narrow focus on instructional leadership and student achievement can shut out other dimensions of leading learning” (p. 41). The author says that transformational leaders have a broader focus allowing them to implement adequate learning practices and bring reforms to education.
Interestingly, Fullan also explains why an autonomous leader is better than a bureaucrat, and a transformational leader is better than both. First, according to Fullan (2014), the principal has to be a transformational leader who can implement connected learning “across the schools and systems” (p. 42). The author also criticizes the “micro madness” and the “inconsistency and poor organization of processes” (Fullan, 2014, p. 43). The information discussed could be successfully applied by the leader in any organization that aims to establish good relationships with its employees and stakeholders.
In particular, future leaders should consider the advice to realize the vision and apply transformational practices in managing organizational processes. Working with human resources has much in common with the organization of participants in the learning process. Therefore, HR managers can draw a lot of useful information from the book under discussion. Equally important, policymakers at the federal, state and local levels often use inadequate approaches to introducing the changes in educational institutions. Therefore, the advice to avoid bureaucracy and individualistic solutions could be effectively used for managing companies as well as non-governmental entities.
No less important, the advice on using technology as a driving force for implementing change will be insightful for the managers. The technology should be used to improve communication between teachers, students, staff, and managers. In addition, putting stakes on the power, potential, and functionality of technology, many managers lose sight of the need for a more detailed study of every smart function. Moreover, technological innovations can be developed individually, under the requirements of a particular educational or business facility.
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Book
The book The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact by Michael Fullan has particular strengths as it is an inspiring and highly motivational piece of writing. The information presented in the book has the widest possible application in education and business. In particular, the recognition by the author of the inconsistency of teaching strategies developed by different teachers is inspiring, since most institutions deny this trend. Equally important, substantive criticism of the individualistic approach motivates managers and principals to interact more openly with various stakeholders. The author successfully continues the idea of the importance of communications in the implementation of technology in management processes. In general, the listed driving forces and tools supporting change detail the author’s more complex messages about educational processes and systems.
The weak sides of the book include a small number of chapters and a narrow choice of subjects. Moreover, the topic of maximizing the impact of principals on the educational process could be addressed with more real-life examples. At the same time, the author could add questions, case studies, or self-study exercises that would allow the comparison of different ways of dealing with reforms and changes. The author also makes little use of external sources, such as learning and management theories, which would have enriched the work, given the author’s talent for formulating insights and direct descriptive presentation of facts characterizing the issue under discussion.
Fullan, M. (2014). The principal: Three keys to maximizing impact. John Wiley & Sons.