Friday, July 6, 2012

The Leadership Variable

" I learned that history is shaped by the use of power, and that different people, leading the same army, with, therefore, approximately the same power, applied it so differently that the army seemed to change from a pack of noble fools at Fredericksburg to panicked cowards melting away at Chancellorsville, then to the grimly determined, stubborn soldiers who held the ridges at Gettysburg, and then, finally, to the disciplined, professional army that ground Lee to dust in Grant’s long campaign. It wasn’t the soldiers who changed. It was the leader. And even though I could not then have articulated..." (Card, O.S.(1991). Enders Game. New York: Tom Doherty Associates. P. VIII-IX.) Whenever I consider the dilemma of leadership affecting organizations I am drawn to that quotation by Orson Scott Card in the introduction of his acclaimed science fiction novel Enders Game. His apt description of the crisis that Abraham Lincoln had in finding someone to effectively lead the might and resources of the union army at the outset of the Civil War was truly a problem, especially when his golden boy, in the selection of the proper, well-dressed, and verbose George McClellan could not lead his way out of a paper bag, let alone a significant defeat of the Army of Northern Virgina. It wasn't until a Ulysses S. Grant was appointed to lead the Grand Army of the Republic that the war eventually was won by the Union. This typical example of what I call the "leadership variable" is played out in our school organizations,as well. If you have the right person in a leadership role of a principal's position,supervisor's position or superintendent, the success of the organization will be assured. The quandary is how do you find successful leaders? Boards of Education need to be bold enough to make changes and decisions to leadership positions sooner, rather than later. The risk would be devasting to keep ineffective people in these roles. Just look at the example of an incompetent George McClellan, Ambrose Burnside, George Meade, and others that had no idea on how to beat the Confederacy from winning the Civil War. In education, the stakes are equally devastating.

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