In response to recent posts, a reader writes:

“There is one thing a reader said that resonated with me and not just about dress code issues, but a lot of the culture and climate issues which are decided by those who are not the instructional leaders of campuses and districts, but well-intentioned nonetheless.

The reader wrote, “…always represented a choice between two ditches I had to die in.”

I would observe that what can exist between two ditches is a road that may be less travelled than the ditches of despair we, as administrators, are thrown into or dive into for cover. What I mean to say is that the truth of the matter we seek is never one-sided. Truth is what exists between the extremes reached not by compromise but by consensus.

As we know compromise is, “I have to give up something to get something” and consensus is, “That to which we all can agree.” When it comes to deciding on most every school issue we have too often forgotten to focus on the win-win of consensus on issues of real importance, experience the success of those ventures, and then collaboratively work on what is left. When the focus is on instruction and student mastery through exemplary instruction, the “other” issues either resolve themselves or become unimportant. Instead of focusing on ditches, build roads and bridges.”

SC Response
Excellent points. In my own experience, I have never “died in a ditch.” Though there have been a number of hills I should not have taken. Here is what I think is a key point. Consensus is what you should strive for, if you are dealing with reasonable people, with decent levels of capacity, and agendas that are not openly detrimental to students. In that case, the consensus answer is most likely the best answer.

On the other hand, if the any of the three criteria I just mentioned are not present, it creates a quite different leadership arena, one that could be described as a “sprint on a high wire.” When you find yourself in this situation, you have to set the path, build capacity, add by subtraction and communicate constantly. Be a dictator too long and they will hang you. Be ineffective too long and you will be fired.

Leadership done right is situational and risky. But remember, we all volunteered for the job.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…