From Good Schools to Great Schools: What Their Principals Do Well

by Susan Penny Gray and William A. Streshly, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2008, 184 pp., $31.95 softcover

School leaders surely are familiar with the research by Jim Collins on the effectiveness of great business organizations in his best-seller Good to Great. Many of us have wondered whether the principles apply to schools.

Susan Penny Gray, a member of the educational leadership faculty at San Diego State University, and William Streshly, emeritus professor of educational leadership in the College of Education at SDSU, studied a group of principals to compare those identified as great and those who qualified as good.

A working knowledge of the Collins research will allow the reader of From Good Schools to Great Schools to make comparisons between his observations and those of the authors — specifically, the characteristics of Level 5 leaders. Although the authors do not attempt to study all of the elements of a great organization listed by Collins, their study does refer to them while observing leadership behaviors.

The authors expected to find that successful principals demonstrated the same Level 5 leadership traits as successful business leaders, and they did so. On a more interesting note, an additional leadership skill was observed. Superstar principals were highly skilled in their ability to build relationships.

The authors’ findings also have implications for staff development and university programs that prepare principals. The book can be used by superintendents as a jumping-off point for looking at the leadership styles of their own principals.

Reviewed by John C. Fagan, retired superintendent, Elmhurst, Ill.