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Alarmed by mounting evidence of a national shortage of qualified and committed school principals, a colleague and I interviewed and surveyed over 200 public school principals from across the United States to find out why so many are leaving the profession and how those who stay persist in their role. Based on that data, we drew conclusions about how successful practitioners prioritize competing demands and achieve life balance, while keeping instruction at the heart of the enterprise. This analysis resulted in a book published by Teachers College Press in 2006, Balanced leadership: How effective principals manage their work. Knowing all that I did about the principalship, the frustrations it holds, and the gap for most practitioners between the reality of the work and the ideal of instructional leadership, I still chose to accept an invitation from a local school superintendent to fill an interim position as an elementary principal. Consequently, one year ago, I applied for a leave from the professoriate, packed up some books and papers, and took what I had learned about education and leadership to a suburban school with 325 students in kindergarten through grade five. I was determined to find out if I could apply what I had learned from over two hundred experienced principals about keeping the majority of my time and the focus of my work on instructional practice.