A superintendent I worked for told me that many years ago as we discussed my hopes to one day become a superintendent myself. What she meant was this: when you are superintendent, you are by yourself. You have no comparable person in the school district. You have nobody you can go to for advice or venting. You are on your own. You are a one-man wolf pack.
So every month or so I get together with a group of superintendent colleagues from the area. We discuss current topics in the field, discuss difficult issues we are working on to gain a different perspective, and learn from each other about how better to serve our communities.
We met today, and one of the most meaningful pieces of advice came from a colleague across the county: the best path from point A to point B is the high road.
Leaders in any field are subject to a continual barrage of criticism. The same is true for superintendents, principals, teacher leaders, board members, PTA presidents–anybody in a leadership position.
People use a variety of forms to criticize decisions you’ve made, policies you’ve enacted, and even make personal attacks. The critics sometimes appear at public meetings; sometimes they write anonymous letters; sometimes they send emails or write letters to editors or even take out paid advertising.
Their hope is to draw you into an argument or a debate, to put you on the defensive so that you appear unprofessional or imbalanced.
This is true: when you wrestle a pig you both get dirty, but the pig enjoys it.
While it can be tempting to engage in arguments, the best path from point A to point B is the high road. The greatest leaders rise above their critics. They do not stoop to the level of personal attacks or get drawn into unwinnable debates.
School leaders need to remember that the high road is the only road to take. Even when critics attack and bully and try to pull you into the mud, responding with character is never a bad decision.