A few weeks ago, I wanted to write a blog post about leadership. In a previous post, I mentioned that I am a Nebraska Cornhuskers fan and I wanted to compare and contrast the leadership styles of Bo Pelini (who was the head football coach at the time) and Tim Miles (the men’s basketball coach.)
But then Pelini was fired. And then I got distracted. And then I had other thoughts that I wanted to blog about.
But the desire to blog on this issue came up again as I read notes that I took from a keynote address given by Gary McGuey at an administrator’s conference. I like to take notes at these conferences and then go back to them three to six months later as a refresher.
Much has been written about leadership styles. Hold on a second… (pause while I count)… Apparently I have about 100 leadership books just here in my office: Cashman, Collins, Covey, Batten, Webster, MacDonald, Maxwell, Blanchard… all the biggies and more. So, I make no guarantees that this will be a good to great (see what I did there) blog post. Maybe these ideas have already been explored; maybe they aren’t worth exploring. But here goes:
Why do we embrace some leaders but not others?
I was in administration at the high school level for a period of time. One day, while I was teaching a class, I glanced out of my classroom window to see a teacher motioning for me. I went to the door and she told me I was needed in her room. When I got there, she explained that there were potato chips on the floor and that a particular student needed to clean them up. I looked at the chips. I looked at the student. I looked at the teacher. I turned back to the student and said, “Can you clean this please?”
He started to get upset, “I didn’t do that! Why should-”
I cut him off: “Oh, I never said you did it. I just asked if you could clean it up.”
Student: “Oh… okay.” And he cleaned it up.
This was a student who often had run-ins with teachers, yet he listened to me. I loved (and still love) this (now former) student. Just thinking about him makes me want to talk to him again and see what he is doing.
Can it be so simple as to say “love”?
Take a look at two coaches:
Bo Pelini had a very respectable record when he coached at Nebraska. He won a lot of games. But he also lost some games that he probably should have won. He also created a very insular culture in which everyone outside of the team was viewed with contempt and as an enemy. He yelled. A lot. He cursed out fans. I won’t post it here, but there is audio out there of him berating the fans of Nebraska football and saying that there will be a day when he is out of the state. In a very simplistic sense, Bo didn’t love his job, his employer (in another audio that I will not post, he referred to the athletic director in very unkind terms), or the fans–even though many fans to this day defend him blindly.
Tim Miles has not had a record even close to as successful at Nebraska as Bo Pelini. Yes, basketball is a different sport, but he has struggled (especially in this season) to win games. And yet, Miles is embraced by the fans and nationally. Ask Big 10 writers who their favorite basketball coach is and chances are they will name Miles. Even an opposing player stated he would like to play for Coach Miles. Why? Miles exudes enthusiasm and love for everything he does. He loves the fans. He loves the AD. He loves his players. And love covers a multitude of sins. Consider:
How is that different from Bo Pelini’s blow ups? Not much of a difference, honestly. But the relationship formed between Miles and the rest of the fanbase attracts followers. People may not be happy with how Miles responded in that situation, but they will still “follow” him because he “loves” the fans. Bo on the other hand told the fans how he felt and as a result, his blow-ups led to losing “followers.”
At the conference I attended, McGuey quoted Stephen Covey: “When the problem is out there, there lies the problem.” To add, I would submit that it is a problem that lends itself to creating excuses and in-fighting.
Some questions to consider:
1–Do you love your people? Whether they are students, parents, colleagues, teachers, pastors, parishioners, etc. etc. etc… do you love them?
2–Do you view “problems” as external or internal? Do you view situations that arise as “problems” or as “opportunities to grow”?
3–Have you allowed an excuse culture to take hold? McGuey stated, “Every time we open our mouths, we establish culture.” What kind of culture are you establishing?
In the board room, love your school board.
In the school, love all of your colleagues.
In the classroom, love your students.
In conferences and over phone calls and email, love the parents of your students.
Let love lead…. and then see what the Lord will do.