Educational Administration, Department of


Date of this Version


Document Type



Journal of Women in Educational Leadership, Vol. 6, No. I-January 2008 ISSN: 1541-6224


Copyright © 2008 Pro>Active Publications. Used by permission.


The high school principal is trained to demonstrate a disposition, or temperament, that is respectful of all persons and sensitive to diverse needs, both within and beyond the school setting. Sergiovanni (2005) describes how the role of principal is changing to encompass increases in responsibility, with expectations from everyone. In this era of accountability, principals must lead large numbers of people toward the common goal of student academic growth. It is rather paradoxical that principals interact with people most of their workday, and yet the old adage, "It's lonesome at the top," applies to the 21st century principal. The principal's role carries with it a degree of isolation (Mercer, 1996; Dussault & Barnett, 1996; Jones, 1994; Daresh & Playco,1995). Principals are susceptible to the juxtaposition of job overload in a people-oriented business and experience feelings of isolation in their professional and personal lives. More than a decade ago, Playco (1991) warned that taking a stance beyond "the safe harbor" of maintaining existing practices can be a lonely business, and, without some type of support, even the most conscientious administrator is likely to give up the fight and remain in the role of building manager" (p.124). In this era of a focus on test results, no comfort zone exists in the principalship. National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) Executive Director Gerald Tirozzi (2002) described the demands of the 21 st century principal. He stated, "School leaders today are tackling tough curriculum standards, educating an increasingly diverse student population, shouldering responsibilities that once belonged in the home or in the community, and then facing termination if their schools do not show instant results. It's no wonder we have a growing principal shortage" (p.1). The job of school leader is consumed with leading people within the organization to relatively better results, and yet, principals talk of "loneliness" and isolation.