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Defining a tri-dimensional approach to the development of leaders of further education colleges.This article presents a review of current leadership practices of principals in further education colleges and suggests that principalship is more than a two-dimensional functional model comprising internal or externally focused activities. During the past 20 years further education leadership has become more demanding, with greater accountability imposed by a state-controlled system and, as Hargreaves and Fink (2005) suggest, this has impacted on the number of individuals entering senior leadership posts. In light of these changes it is appropriate to review the role of the principal and what is known about the way the role has changed. As a result of the way in which principalship has evolved, this article introduces a tri-dimensional model of principalship first by reflecting on leadership practices of college principals and identifying the key elements of their role, and second by suggesting that college principalship compasses three theoretical aspects: a public, an internal–public and an internal–private.