In response to the post, “Gant Wisdom,” a reader writes:
“SC, this piece of wisdom is needed in education. The field of education suffers from the affliction of having no real purpose. By this, I mean there is no “bottom line” as there is in business, or any victory to be won as there is in the military. We exist to “educate” children, but there is no clear consensus in many schools of what “educate” means. As a result many schools flounder in the modern world of education accountability. Too often we in education we get caught up on what we like, or who we like, or what our opinion is, rather than focusing on the job at hand. I can’t count the times I have been to a school and have heard “we are like a family”. That is congeniality, something that is not needed. What we need is collegiality. The two terms sound similar, but they are not the same. The old, conventional wisdom said that being a principal was 80% about personality. In the modern era, this seems to conflict with accountability. What if we said that being a good principal was 80% student results? Food for thought.”
Food for though? I’ll bite.
I’m going to partially disagree with you on some points. First of all, in education you can either choose to have a purpose or not. And by purpose I mean a true driving force. Campuses and districts with a true sense of purpose achieve and do great things (Hello Aldine ISD – 2009 Broad Prize Winner). Unfortunately, in our field you can choose to just show up and not rock the boat. Those are the districts and campuses that value and celebrate the status quo (Hooray, we’re average?). People who have that type of orientation seem flock to those places and things flounder along (seemingly ok) until accountability catches up with them.
The “family” concept is powerful, but can be either useful of dangerous. Family can either drag you down or pull you up. Don’t fight it, use it. If you are the principal (campus level) or the superintendent (district level), you are Big Momma or Big Daddy. You set the tone and focus for the family. Reward and nurture what you expect. Remediate and prune away what you don’t expect. A strong family can win championships (see: Rooney family, Steelers). A weak family never seems to overcome itself (see: Bidwell family, Cardinals). Unfortunately for you, so far in your young career, you have always been cast as “Mean Step Dad.”
This brings me to your question about the 80% rule (personality vs. results). I think it is both, 80% of the principalship is personality and 80% is student results. The math doesn’t work unless you view the equation as two sides of the same coin. On the people management side, 80% of it is personality. If you are right and a jerk, people focus on the jerk part. The personality piece helps you move people to get the results. On the results side, if you are nice and your school is failing, the superintendent focuses on the failed school part. The positive results piece buys you some time to work on the personality.
Think. Work. Achieve.