Last week’s blog was meant to be a warning for leaders… to beware of when it’s time to move to your next challenge. I received a great question from a veteran educator in response to the blog. The question had to deal with how do you handle a leader who has not taken the time to realize that no one is following them and that the time to move on has come.
The toughest part of leadership is having crucial conversations. We train principals how to have these crucial conversations with campus staff members; yet, it seems like the crucial conversations on the admin level are non-existent. Leadership is leadership… regardless the level. I would venture to say that ineffective leaders at the central office level could possibly cause more harm than ineffective leadership on the campus level. Central admin leaders are responsible for the whole district. Ineffective leadership at the top filters through the entire district and effects every campus, every teacher, and every student.
Crucial conversations are not comfortable. Crucial conversations don’t feel good. If you’ve done your job to build relationships, crucial conversations can be downright painful; however, if it’s for the good of the organization, it’s necessary.
In last week’s blog, I mentioned leadership is leadership regardless of the career field. Allow me to use the Jalen Hurts/Alabama situation. Alabama’s football coach, Nick Saban, moved Jalen from starting quarterback this football season. During this year’s championship game, the starting quarterback got hurt and Jalen was sent in as the backup. The team was down when Jalen hit the field in the 4thquarter… the team won under his leadership on the field.
Social media was full of comments about how Jalen stayed at Alabama instead of transferring to another school when he lost the starting position and that the championship comeback was somewhat of a reward for his commitment to the program. That may be true, but I saw a different lesson. I saw a head coach make what was a tough decision… to take the starting position away from a kid he’s had in his program and who helped the team win countless games. In the coach’s eyes, Jalen had gotten to a point where he was no longer productive. At that point, the coach felt what was best for the team was to give the job to someone else who could have been more productive.
Now, if the commentators had it right, I heard them say that Saban didn’t just take the job away from Jalen, he went out and found an exceptional quarterback coach who could help Jalen improve on his passing. This was profound leadership to me. Saban made the tough decision to change quarterbacks, but cared enough about Jalen that he wanted to help him get better. He made the decision that was best for the TEAM, but also made a decision that was best for the PLAYER. That’s great leadership in action.
Back to the original question: What do you do when a leader is no longer effective?
My answer: You have the crucial conversation and do what’s best for the organization.
Paula Patterson is a former principal who shares practical points on the principalship.