A recent above the fold front page story featured a newly appointed board chair of a local school board who is currently in a bid for re-election. She had been reprimanded by the official education regulatory body of the state for being “overzealous.’ The template was of all her transgressions while a member of the school board at large— interfering in hiring decisions being the most prominent. A plethora of supportive letters poured out both to the newspaper and to her personally. She is known as a passionate advocate for children and has served with dignity for many years. Chances are that such a Type A personality can from time to time spill over into zealousness — we all struggle with both our gifts and unfortunately, something we all have, our shortcomings. Counseling her, I’ve struggled with how to respond. Conventional wisdom is this: throw a barb toward the newspaper, and stay under the radar in the belief that the bad story will go away.
I have come to a different conclusion. Stop blaming the newspaper. It is, after all, its job to bring to light issues of interests to citizens, most particularly voters who have important choices to make. (this doesn’t mean that they get a free pass; above the fold — seriously?). What is axiomatic about the world in which we live today is that “transparency” is the new world order. Whether we like it not, unprecedented access to records both public and private is the order of the day. While we may lament and know that many good people are opting out of public life, we have to do the best with what prevails.
All of this does not mean that you sit idly by and wait for the storm to pass. Remember, my 4P formula: understand your Purpose and your core; be Prepared for anything in today’s world, Plan accordingly and develop a Perspective of leadership that allows you to hover at 30,000 and make good decisions.
That being said, my school board chair should approach her crucible by being out front. As soon as the reprimand was issued, she should have issued her own release complete with her story: “Yes, I am zealous on behalf of our children. Given my personality, I may be prone to overzealousness. To that end, I look forward to the classes I’ve been instructed to take that will provide information on the proper roles of board members. In fact, I look forward to learning everyday on how to be better at my job.”
With that advice, I tell my board chair to hold her head high and weather any storm. If she loses the election over being “zealous” then so be it. My bet is that she will win and that she will be a better at her volunteer role than ever before.