Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Leadership Under Fire: Lessons From the Battle of Gettysburg

Michael McGough, Associate History Professor at York College (PA), brought July 1-3, 1863 to life in this engaging retrospective of one of the most deciding engagements in the history of the United States. 

First, the critical truths about leadership: it can be defined, is time and situation sensitive, is born to some (but there are never enough natural leaders, so some need to be made), and is not a solitary pursuit.

Second, what ten most important lessons can 21st leaders take away from this battle? (....with a few examples for you Civil War buffs...)

1.  Great leaders know, understand, can articulate, and hold steadfast to an end goal; never lose sight of      your end goal. (Lincoln's goal - to protect the Union - period.)

2.  Strong leaders attract other strong leaders (human magnetism) and they have the power of influence.        2A: Prudent leaders know that there are always exceptions (Ewell and Sickles) - when an                             organization puts someone incapable in a position who fails (i.e. the Peter Principle).
3.  Successful leaders make the most of the resources and assets at hand - e.g. maximum utilization of          available resources. (3k Union soldiers held off 14K confederates because they had more                        sophisticated weapons).
4.  The best leaders demonstrate a force of character and are guided by a strong moral compass.                  (Gordon and Barlow remained friends after the war.)
5.  Talented leaders determine and prioritize actions based on data, probability, and organizational risk-      reward calculations. (Lee to Davis, Warren to Meade)
6.  Wise leaders have a grasp of the big picture as well as as an appreciation for and a commitment to          their role in it.
7.  Strong leaders can offer and accept "truth to power". (Lee should have listened to Longstreet.)
8.  Great leaders know that title and rank afford opportunities, but it takes effort and performance to            produce desired outcomes.
9.  Real leaders know what comes next and they are prepared to act accordingly. Whomever controls          the information has the power. (Lincoln obtained two critical cables from Sec. of War Stanton's              telegraph machine before he knew about them.)
10.The best leaders understand, appreciate, and use the power of their words. (The reprimand letter            from Lincoln to Meade July 14, 1863 was never sent and found years later in his desk).  Lincoln did      not use "I" or "me"in the Gettysburg address..........  

Third: how do those who value and support education live up to this challenge?

       Remember Lincoln's words - "that we highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain"

       Our mission: what is best for kids because we are their hope in the present.

(Notes provided with thanks to scribe Supt. Brian Hyde of Mashpee who was kind enough to share!)