Monday, August 20, 2012

Lessons of Leadership, Part 1

Although I've only been - officially speaking, anyway - principal of Maryvale for a few weeks, I have learned a lot. One of the most interesting aspects of the job is, to me anyway, being a boss. Ever done it? I wondered if I could come up with a list of the ten most important things I've learned so far about being a boss.

I had assumed - and I think I am right about this - that fatherhood itself would have been a great preparation for this responsibility. A father makes decisions out of love, at least he is supposed to, and love requires that he have a clear idea about the good to which his decisions must be aimed. In the home, a father wants the happiness, healthiness, and most of all, the eternal salvation of those souls entrusted to him. The only difference with an institution - a school in this case - is that a school is oriented to the good in a way different from a family. Yet many of the values and considerations are transferable.

Of course, you have to start somewhere. As I love to relate, the first diaper I ever changed was my son's, Isaiah's, around December 19th, 2000. I was 24 years old, and that was my first diaper change. My girls get to babysit. Isaiah's diaper was not Isaiah's first, but it was mine. Today, at 37 years of age, I have my first school to run. You gotta start at zero.

But do you really ever start at ground zero? No, not really. All the virtue, knowledge and wisdom I learned from my family growing up, then in the work force, in prayer, chastisement, etc, is like a well from which I can draw. More immediately, I owe a great deal to my predecessor and new friend, Michael Dopp. The Board has been wonderful too, and the teachers.

I find myself asking quite a bit: WWDD (what would Dopp do?), WWPD (what would Prendergast do?), and, even, WWCD (what would Cassidy do? - my old boss at OLSWA). Most of all, however, I find myself asking, no matter the context  - WWMDD (what would my dad do?).

You don't start at zero, and so having good examples to work from, you learn more quickly.

Now, the top ten things I have learned about being a boss:

10. Organization is more important than the right answer. Knowing the issues involved is more important than the right answer.

9. Restrain your desire to joke too much. Particular to me. Levity is so important (see # 3 below), but it can distract from focusing on and resolving key issues.

8. Follow the rules better than everyone else, while knowing that rules are not as important as people and goals.

7. Be a real human being, but your dirty laundry stays in the basket at home. People know you are only human, so don't pretend like you are not, but they still want you to be stronger and more trustworthy than they feel they are themselves.

6. Ask for advice often, but assume complete responsibility for making the decision.

5. Everyone remembers everything, so be consistent and charitable with every word. Integrity is the hallmark of leadership.

4. Operate from your best judgement. Judge others as having done the same. Let them know that this is the measure by which they are judged. 

3. Be positive. The boss sets the mood. How many times have I walked into a store and can see on the faces of the employees what kind of boss they must have? Businesses should know this - but they generally don't.

2. Pay people all the respect you would want  paid to you. Learning names is important, but, even more importantly, conduct yourself with the mindset that the individual in front of you at this moment is the one who matters most at this moment.

1. Follow-through. The buck stops with you. If you pass the task by, it might not get done, and that is on you. You might not be the one to turn the lights off every night, but if you are never the one turning them off, there's a problem. It's your ship: go down with it.

Will this be my list in a year, in a month, in a week? Who's to say? Pray for me, please.

St. Augustine, a truly great boss.
(Image from


  1. God bless you, Colin. You will do wonderfully. A boss that has always impressed me is Gerard at bb metro - kind.

  2. You are in my prayers. God bless,