Book Review

10 Traits of Highly Effective Principals

Reviewed by Brenda S. Dietrich
Superintendent, Auburn-Washburn Unified School District,
Topeka, Kan.

If you have difficulty precisely defining to your board, your patrons or your building administrators what an effective principal looks like and you are too busy to compile your own thorough list of explicit characteristics, you might turn to Elaine K. McEwan’s recent publication, 10 Traits of Highly Effective Principals: From Good to Great Performance.

McEwan synthesized current research on the principalship to create a list of characteristics of highly effective principals. She developed the list following an extensive review of the current literature on effective leadership in business, management and psychology, which the author then linked with best practices in educational leadership. The author sampled an eclectic group of individuals across the country and used their responses to create the final list. The traits are: Communicator, Educator, Envisioner, Facilitator, Change Master, Culture Builder, Activator, Producer, Character Builder and Contributor.

The usefulness of this book clearly lies in the author’s treatment of the traits and in the resource guide and facilitator’s guide at the end. McEwan brings the work to life through stories about 37 practicing principals who exemplify the 10 traits, allowing readers to see what each trait looks like. Her examples show how successful principals turned around low-performing schools, helped good schools become great and raised the standards of excellence in already successful schools. The content is rich with stimulating ideas that would inspire even the most seasoned administrator.

This book would be an excellent resource for self-assessment by members of the leadership team. It also could be used to facilitate group discussions at building and central-office levels and in university training of potential and practicing principals.

(10 Traits of Highly Effective Principals: From Good to Great Performance by Elaine K. McEwan, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2003, 247 pp., $34.95 softcover)