Leaders Don’t Do Threats, They Do the Right Thing

It happens more often than you would think.

From time to time, parents or community members or sometimes even staff have something they want or need, and they will attempt to get it not through reasonable discussion, but through implicit or explicit threats.

Maybe these folks want something for their child: a changed grade or more playing time or transportation privileges or a detention cancelled. They may want something for themselves: a new assignment, a granted leave, a waived fee, access to unavailable facilities.

The threats may be covert. “I’ve always supported your levy” means they might not next time. An emailed complaint CCed to a board member or supervisor means if you don’t give me what I want you will be in trouble.

The threats may be overt. Sometimes they threaten litigation. Sometimes they threaten to never support a future levy if their wishes aren’t granted. Almost always they remind you that they are tax payers and pay your salary.

Here’s the thing they don’t think about: they don’t WANT a school leader who gives into threats. Why? Because if a school leader gives into their threat, isn’t he just as likely to give in to a threat from somebody else?

And, quite frankly, sometimes people ask for the exact opposite thing. For example, it’s not uncommon when students have conflict at school that one parent will demand the other student be suspended, while the other parent will demand their child not be disciplined, with both parents threatening never to support the school again if they don’t get what they want.

So, you don’t want school leaders who give in to threats. Instead, you want school leaders who listen to concerns, who consider all sides of the issue carefully, and who make the best decision they can based on the best information they have gathered.

Sometimes decisions must be black and white. But most often, good school leaders are expected to have the ability to make reasonable decisions in complex situations. Clearly not every decision will make every interested party happy.

But when you really think about it, you would really rather have a leader who sometimes disagrees with you than one who concedes every time he’s threatened with adverse consequences.

And for those school leaders who are faced with various threats from time to time, my advice is this: criticism will come no matter what decision you make, so you might as well just ignore the politicking and do the right thing.

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