A leader’s time is valuable. Well, everyone’s time is valuable but, monetarily, a leader, more so than those who support him or her, is seen to have more valuable time. So (s)he is not expected to engage in the day to day tasks that the support staff is expected to do. That’s not to say that one’s role is more or less important because, it is often said, “A leader with no one following is merely a person taking a walk.” But, back to the point at hand, in the eternal words of the late, great Christopher Wallace, “I got a story to tell.”
Yesterday was my fourth day dealing with the dreadful NC snow (I say that sarcastically because I’ve spent plenty of snowy seasons in NY and NJ where this here is a breeze). But I managed to get out of the house and made it into the office to get some stuff done (I needed some files that I couldn’t access from home so I had to come to campus to patch in). When I got to campus, I saw the groundskeepers out working with shovels to chip away at the ice and snow that had accumulated. No big surprise there. The surprise was in the fact that, right there alongside them was the head of school, Dave Michelman. This guy is a well-educated educator whose signature sits on the checks of every single person working at the school. He runs one of the most successful independent schools not only in the state but one that serves as a model across the nation. He could have easily delegated the work to the groundskeepers while sitting comfortably in his home, looking over reports and drinking coffee. Instead, he was out there, chipping away at ice and tossing shovels-full of snow onto an off-white (in some spaces, off-grey) pile of slush. I feel like I’m pretty cool with the maintenance and grounds teams so, whether he was there or not, I would have helped out anyway. But the thing is, Dave inspired me to invest more in Duke School because he was out there investing. He was going above and beyond. He wasn’t sitting around looking like an educator. He was ensuring that we could safely provide students with an education. Folks, that’s leadership. It’s knowing that an extra set of hands is needed and, if you don’t have something more important vying for your attention, making yourself available. At that moment, his main priority was getting the school up and running by 8:00 AM the next morning. And, guess what? Students were in classes and learning at 8. As I think back to some leaders I’ve worked with in the past, there are very few who I can say I’ve seen a comparable level of integrity shown. I, however, want to be the kind who, when it’s time to get a task done, will be out there in the trenches with my team if need be.
Some people want to be leaders so they’ll have to put in less hours or do less of the “hard” work. But a real leader knows that he will likely have to put in more hours and, when necessary, work harder than everyone else who is doing the hard work. If you don’t want to do that, find a nice mid-ranged position and stay there. Know that you don’t have to do everything but you also cannot delegate everything and, sometimes, you must include yourself within your delegation to inspire integrity and loyalty in the team that you’re leading.
Make professional development a priority.