In my continuous study of school leaders, I constantly examine their decision making process.  One of the driving questions for regular examination is, “When faced with a difficult decision why will one person select the “right” answer for the organization and why will one select the “right” answer for avoiding conflict?” 

Essentially, why did the person select or not select the courageous path?

By courageous path, I mean the decision that is best for students and best for the organization, yet will place the leader at increased risk for failure.  Superintendents and Principals face these types of decisions on a semi-regular basis.  Assistant Principals and Central Office Staff not so much. It is the burden of being the ultimate leader (Superintendent – entire organization, Principal – entire field based unit).

There are a host of reasons that one could point to, but here is one that I am noticing more and more often. Personal debt.

Take two leaders, one with large personal debt, and one without. Place in front of them an optimal decision, but making the decision has the potential to place the leader at risk of losing his or her job.  The one with little debt will gird him or herself up and make that tough decision.  The one with large debt will avoid the decision or continue to search for a solution that does not risk the job of the leader.

Now, I am not judging (my use of the word “right”, not withstanding), I am merely observing.  But here is my conclusion.  As we are well aware, exemplar leadership has many components. If you take leadership seriously, and at LYS we do, you have to keep your personal house in order.  The greater the load of liabilities that you carry (and we all have them), the greater the chance that those liabilities will cloud your judgment. Protect yourself and your organization; discipline yourself to live below your means.

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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