Skip to main content

Tough Leadership Lessons

A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go but ought to be.
~ Rosalynn Smith Carter

This morning my daughter and I went through an emotional time which gave me pause. She is twelve and cannot understand the complexities of a dysfunctional family (not that any child should have to). To give a brief backstory to help in the reader's understanding, my brother and I have not spoken in years. Perhaps as many as four of them. It is not something I am happy about, but it is my reality right now, and my wife and I have never minced words with our kids. We have always wanted them to understand their current realities as well, and sometimes this means dealing with not-so-nice issues.

So my mother and daughter are in town (they live in Arizona), staying in our house, and they plan to go visit my brother and his family for the holidays while they are here. Mom invites my daughter to go with them and I have to be the one to say no, which causes a certain amount of frustration and emotion on the parts of my daughter and her grandmother. When I found a free moment (tough to do when you are hosting out-of-town guests) I called my heart-broken twelve year old into the other room and tried explaining to her why I didn't want her to see her uncle until I made things right between him and I.

While she may not have understood in the moment, it was something I had to do. It is what I believe in, my bottom line. In this case, it was her safety, her well-being, my vision of what I see for her, want for her in the future.

I believe school and business leaders must do the same - figure out what your bottom line is, make sure everyone understands what your vision is, and don't waver from it. All decisions are based on the vision, even if they are tough to make. Don't mince words. Make sure everyone knows what you are all about. They may not understand in the here and now, they may walk out of your office upset with you in the moment, but you will be able to sleep at night knowing that you did what you know was right. Because you have an unwavering vision of excellence. No one can stand in the way of that.

Popular posts from this blog


I am visited by two former Seniors on a recent Friday in early June.  They have been out of school for only a short time, having graduated three weeks prior.  We stay in touch because, well, that's one of the main reasons I am in this profession - to make a lasting difference in the lives of students.  But it's not only the students; it's their families as well.  I attend their graduation parties, keep up to date on their life happenings, I even recently attended the wedding and reception of one of my former students whom I had taught when he was in the 6th grade.  He's now 28.  
But this is what is required of this job.  We are in the business of making lasting impressions.  For anyone who doesn't believe this to be true, and that your only job as an educator is to impart knowledge and provide kids with information that they could just as easily find online, you are sorely mistaken.  I could easily insert here all of the research that proves, beyond the shadow of…

Parenting and the Principal

Very REAL Life, Part I

I need to tell you about my life as principal.
Particularly from the standpoint of this life as husband, dad and foster/adoptive parent.
And the daughter I have who is sitting in prison.

It is the winter of 2009.  I had just been accepted into the Doctoral program at National Louis University, and was heading to an informational meeting about the program when my wife called.  I was pulling into the high school where our cohort would be spending a lot of class hours together over the next few years, excited about this journey my family had agreed was the best time for me to embark upon, even more ecstatic to be the first in my family to achieve this prestigious degree.

We didn't realize the road I was about to travel was actually riddled with potholes, detours, wrong turns, and dead ends.

My wife can barely speak.
It seems like a lifetime, though it is actually 10 minutes on the phone with her,
trying to calm her down,
sitting in my Volvo with the engine turn…

Real Writers. Real Writing. Real Voices

Same 7th grade classroom.
Different group of students.   It is a warm afternoon and the fans are on.   I think back to my days as a 7th grader.   My teacher's name was Mrs. Zurn.   She passed away in the mid-90's and I remember her clearly for her loud voice;  Her booming voice and I remember her because she used to make us write.
A lot.

And it was always about the things that she wanted us to write about, never about the things that I CARED about like music and motorcycles and the ATV's that I spent my weekends on, flying through the cornfields and woods that I lived next door to.  Or my parent's divorce and my dad moving to California and how much I missed him.  We couldn't write about that stuff. 
Instead we wrote about St. Thomas and our favorite lunch, and if we could be anything when we grew up what would it be, and Mother Theresa and what our favorite color was and why, and writing a letter to Pope John Paul II.  I went to a Catholic school.  You can probab…