In response to the posts on, “Fear,” a reader writes:
“As an additional thought on the two types of principals that we have discussed in the past, I want to add these thoughts about fear. Not only do leaders fall into one of the two camps that have been discussed, but the ‘fear’ in each camp is totally different. Let me explain.
The leader, who is afraid to do something for fear of being wrong, has a fear of personnel consequences, (i.e. to their career, reputation, future, etc.) It is a self-centered and paralyzing fear and is un-healthy for both the leader and the system.
On the other hand is the leader who is afraid to do nothing. Those are the leaders driven to do something, anything, and everything for the benefit of their students. This is a completely different type of fear. While this second type of leader may have the same fears as the first type, they have a greater fear, not for themselves, but for their students. They fear that their students might be shortchanged, or receive less than the best that they deserve. That fear is not self-centered, in fact it completely overcomes the self-centered fear and rather than paralyzing the leader, it frees the leader to take chances, to risk in order to provide the best leadership possible. It is an empowering fear, a healthy fear.
My advice to young leaders is to be aware of both types of fear. Fight the un-healthy fear or you become a coward and an embarrassment to our profession. Embrace the healthy fear. Use it, along with good judgment, and a healthy respect for the negative consequences of reckless or badly planned and poorly executed efforts, to provide your students with a superior education. It is the only way to truly make a difference.
Remember, there is no such thing as a ‘timid leader.’ If you are ‘timid,’ you are no ‘leader’ at all.”
Home run! I agree point for point. You especially nail the “timid seat warmer” right between the eyes. Early in my role working for the Commissioner, I was tasked with working with the leadership of a district that was in the ditch. The leader of the “you just don’t know our kids” faction focused entirely on the go slow, don’t ruffle any feathers model of change (this is the modern day equivalent of Nero fiddling while Rome burns).
After having facts and reality knock the legs out of every excuse she had for doing nothing, she said, “Mr. Cain, in a race to Galveston, you may get there first, but I will eventually arrive.”
To which I responded, “Yes, and I will arrive with a bus load of students. You will be lucky to arrive with a car load.”
At the end of the semester, a different Principal was selected to run the race. And yes, the new Principal had to deal with uncomfortable and unhappy staff for a little while, but things did improve and staff did get happier.
Think. Work. Achieve.