In response to the posts on Anonymous Letters, a reader (an assistant superintendent who has dramatically improved both high school and district performance) writes:

“I have been exposed to this situation 5 times in the last 15 years (only once was I the target). I have been able to watch it play out each time. This is what I have learned.

First, do not blame the letter writer, they are not the coward. Actually, they are just playing a weak card (probably their only card) and hoping for the best. To sign their name to it would be a dumb move. So once again, they are not the coward in this story, they are just a savvy game player.

It is the reaction of the leadership who received the letter that determines the effectiveness of their play (and the blame, if handled incorrectly). The only correct response is to ignore anonymous efforts, thus ending the game.

If the leadership gives credence to the letter and uses it, shame on them. They are buying into a gambit that is all “downside” with no “upside.” If they use it as a reason to change direction, or force others to change directions, then they become the coward in the story.

As the superior, if they want you to change directions they should just tell you so; after all, that is their job. They do not need the excuse of an anonymous letter to justify their action. By using the letter, they are the coward. They are hiding behind a letter that there can be no response to, and substituting that for their legitimate authority. That is why the term coward applies. If ‘coward’ is too strong a term for you, let’s just call it weak (sad, pathetic, etc.) leadership.

As the target, this is how I would interpret this situation. The obvious weakness of the anonymous letter writer’s gambit is just confirmation that your efforts are working, so take heart and ignore their play.

If your supervisor responds to the anonymous letter, you are lucky. You now know that you are in the wrong district. This is a simple indicator that you are working in a weak system and for a weak leader and unless you decide to join them, you have now have ability to find your next job while still working.”

SC Response
That was an excellent, measured comment and one that reminds me of some advice that a very successful entrepreneur shared with me early in my career. He said,

“Do not punish sheep for being sheep; they can not help who they are. Punish the shepherd who led his flock astray due to self interest, lack of foresight, or lack of integrity.”

It seems to me if you are a school leader responding to anonymous letters, you are like the shepherd who responds to the bleating of irritated sheep. If this behavior is unacceptable of a shepherd, why would one consider it acceptable for a school leader?

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…