by R. McIntire and J.T. Fessenden • IDRA Newsletter • January 2001

In the self-directed school, the principal is presented with what may appear to be a dilemma: “If I successfully empower my stakeholders and pass authority and responsibility on to them, will I still be held accountable for the successes and failures of the school, or will the stakeholders – the real decision makers – be held responsible?” Although it may seem anti-intuitive at first, it soon will be very clear to the superintendent, the board, as well as the principal that the principal remains accountable.

In a collaborative, high involvement school like a self-directed school, principals will no longer be prized for their ability to keep the lid on and to run a tight ship. Instead, the principal will be judged and evaluated based on his or her ability to listen effectively, use conflict resolution, build consensus, build teams, facilitate stakeholder problem-solving and know how to delegate and hold individuals and clusters responsible for their respective performances.

If a self-directed school is successful, it will be because the principal facilitates and empowers the stakeholders to make the decisions that led to that success…In what appears to be a contradiction, a self-directed school principal must be strong enough to be weak. The principal must be strong enough as an attitude builder, facilitator, administrator, coach and advisor to release the power and authority that has traditionally been reserved for the position of principal. Through modeling, coaching, advising and providing training, the principal must allow a new leadership to emerge – the collective leadership of the stakeholders working together in teams.

From The Self-Directed School: Empowering the Stakeholders by R. McIntire and J.T. Fessenden. (Jefferson City, Missouri: Scholastic). As printed by Parents for Public Schools, December 2000.

Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at

[©2001, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the January 2001 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]