PMP365: Likable Leadership with Lisa Parry

Lisa Parry is a veteran English teacher (1994-present) and K-12 principal (2018-present) who is proud to lead a 2021 National Blue Ribbon Elementary School and a 2020 ESEA Distinguished Elementary School. In 2022, her  colleagues recognized her as South Dakota Region 1 Principal of the Year. Some of the most gratifying work she has done has been serving as a co-developer and facilitator of the South Dakota Department of Education’s Good to Great Teacher Mentoring Program. Speaking and writing about ‘Likable Leadership,’ ‘Master Mindsets,’ and ‘Meaningful Messaging’ is important to her. 

She has presented at the National Blue Ribbon School Conference, and she will be sharing her message there again this fall and at the Making Schools Work Conference this summer. Lisa earned an M.S.Ed. in Educational Leadership from South Dakota State University and a B.S.Ed. in English Education from the University of South Dakota.  

You can learn more about her and her presentations at her website

Fill in the gaps on the intro and tell listeners something they may surprised to know about you?

I lead a PK-12 school of approximately 300 students, and I still teach one course each year. My AP Lang & Comp; Comp seniors keep me grounded in the experiences of a classroom teacher which is critically important to my success in so many ways!

Tell us about Arlington School District you lead as principal and AP Comp. teacher.

We are a rural district in South Dakota, and we serve 300ish students who all learn and grow together under one roof. We are proud of our academic and extracurricular programs and strive every year to go from great to even better!

Why do you focus on likable leadership?

We are in the customer service business: teachers need to lead their classrooms with warmth and competence and principals need to lead their schools with warmth and competence. We are losing too many students and teachers to competitors.

A few quotes come to mind when I consider this question: 

  • Maya Angelou — “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” 
  • TikTok post –“Have you tried being nice?” Ultimately, I find great joy in pursuing and securing mutually-beneficial outcomes, and when I am able to accomplish that, the individual on the other side of the negotiation generally has a positive feeling about me. That matters in leadership—and especially in roles that involve the most vulnerable populations (the young and the old).
  • Marigolds – Jen Gonzalez & Cult of Pedagogy

Can you tell us about your super power of managing difficult conversations and conflict? What lessons may help others who struggle with that skill set?

The key to success in managing difficult conversations and conflict is operating from a perspective of curiosity, not condemnation or contempt. When we “seek first to understand,” we allow another to feel heard and valued. This perception is everything! So often, people need someone to listen to their perspective, to acknowledge the difficulty of their situation, and to provide them guidance about next steps. I generally feel equipped to provide that to my stakeholders. Remember, it is always personal.

Last year you spoke at the National Blue Ribbon Schools conference, and this year you will be there again. You will also speak at the Making Schools Work conference in July of 2023. What are some takeaways you are sharing with leaders and educators there?

Despite our seemingly unique experiences—many leaders are from very large urban schools which, on the surface, are nothing like the schools I serve—we enjoy so many commonalities! The best of us are all in this world for one reason—to help kids succeed. We all shed tears when we lose one, and we all feel our hearts leap with joy when we see one transition to the next phase of making their dreams come true. To quote Angelou again, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” Amen, Maya!

You are going into your 30th year. What advice do you have for others to help them sustain for the long term (or the short term)?

  • You have to see the good all around you—trust me, if you look for it, you will find it. (And if you look for the rotten, you will see plenty of that, too.)
  • Every experience—both good and bad—has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Don’t ever come to believe that because today was bad, tomorrow will be bad as well. Each day is an opportunity to start anew. We have to believe that for ourselves, for our students, and for our teachers.
  • We must strive to make new mistakes.

What ways has Principal Matters been helpful in your leadership?

I am the only principal in my district, so I do not have someone near me with whom I can collaborate. The reality of my isolation is sometimes lonely and frustrating, and if I don’t look for and learn from podcasts like Principal Matters, I only have the voices in my own head telling what to do and what to avoid. I have trusted Principal Matters to guide me in my first five years of leadership, and I have never been led astray.

What are some parting words of wisdom and how listeners can stay connected with you?

We are having a Waterloo moment of sorts in ed. And we principals have some–not all–power to change that.  HOW CAN I HELP!  REASONABLE DEMANDS!

Stay connected with Lisa at

Principal Parry’s Pithy Proverbs

Lisa Parry is a K-12 Principal in Arlington, South Dakota, and a professional development speaker and consultant. As a Principal Matters Associate, she also regularly contributes to our newsletter subscribers. You can follow her work at: Enjoy this thoughtful post from Lisa:

How I communicate with someone in pain:

A little was hurt on our playground yesterday.

She came to the office for first aid & TLC.

Not me: Stop crying & relax.

Me: That must hurt. I can understand why you are crying.

Not me: You are a big girl. Be brave.

Me: It is scary to fall & get hurt.

Not me: I know you want your mom, but you’re fine.

Me: Yes, let’s call Mom so you can talk to her.

Not me: If you were careful, you wouldn’t get hurt.

Me: Accidents can happen, even when we are careful.

And this narrative is not just applicable to littles.

Bigs need compassion, too.

I’ve lived 51 years, & no one has ever made me feel better by minimizing my pain.

By dismissing my experience.

By questioning my response to being hurt.

And in 30 years as an educator, I have never soothed anyone by being salty.

Think someone else would benefit from this episode?
William D. Parker
William D. Parker