October 16 is Boss’ Day.
What makes a great boss? I’m sure employees have all kinds of ideas but the four most effective ones I found are that he/she will
- engage and inspire.
- provide feedback and coaching.
- recognize and reward.
- set goals and help us achieve great things.
On the other hand, what makes a bad boss? Research claims that 60-75% of managers are incompetent or poor leaders. The reasons for this high percentage are because
- they were promoted for technical skill, not management ability -- the Peter Principle (people often get worse at their jobs the higher they climb the ladder).
- they're narcissists. They possess confidence and charisma instead of knowledge to handle the job.
- they fill a psychological need for authority. The boss takes on the role as our parent or authority figure.
I don't have a boss like a person who works in an office. My boss is in charge of 200 employees and 2,000 teenagers.
I've had a total of six bosses/principals over my 34 1/4 years of teaching. I can find something good and bad in all of them, which is probably what they would say about me, too. My friend at school said once that since I'm old and near retirement, I can say anything; therefore, I'm using my voice to evaluate my bosses like they always did me.
My first principal, Marvin McCain, will always hold a special place in my heart because he gave me my first teaching job at Mosley High School. Mr. McCain really cared about the kids at school and everyone who worked for him liked him, or at least I think they did. I was so new and not much aware of school politics at the time. After two years of working for him, Mr. McCain retired because he was being demoted to assistant principal by the superintendent. Many parents, employees and students were very upset about losing our leader. We took out full-page ads in the local paper, wrote letters to the school board and started petitions to show our support for him.
Mr. McCain’s forced retirement was probably the best thing to ever happen to him. He started selling real estate, opened his own property management corporation and is today a millionaire.
After Mr. McCain, the superintendent appointed Hugh Tucker as the new principal. Mr. Tucker was the total opposite of his predecessor; he was all about the business of running a school instead of taking an interest in the people who made up the school. Mr. Tucker was such a micromanager, even insisting on typing(on his manual typewriter) his own daily bulletin.
Mr. Tucker was another principal that got on the bad side of the superintendent. Like Mr. McCain, he was threatened with a demotion but instead chose to retire. I never heard that Mr. Tucker made any great achievements like Mr. McCain did in retirement. He did some things when he was principal that caused me to lose all respect for him. I won't go into that.
The pendulum swung back to a people person as a replacement for Mr. Tucker. Larry Bolinger, a fellow English teacher, was named my new principal. By this time, I was old enough to call the boss by first name. Larry was a mover and shaker. He was knowledgeable of all the new programs in education and allowed a group of us to form an academy of technology, math, science and English teachers. We developed our own curriculum and taught in a truly integrated classroom. Larry really supported our efforts.
Larry was such a motivating principal, was usually smiling and seemed to really enjoy his job. The line in the poem “Richard Cory” by E.A. Robinson –“ he glittered when he walked” – always made me think of Larry. It didn’t take but a couple of years for all of us to realize that Larry was using our school as a stepping stone to run for superintendent. At that point, Larry's glitter had worn off, and many employees said they voted for him to get him out of our school.
Larry won and served only one term. During the campaign for re-election, someone videotaped Larry stealing his opponent’s political road sign. The tape made the news, and Larry lost the election.
Perhaps Larry's best decision as superintendent was making Bill Husfelt his replacement as principal. Bill was a family man, truly cared about all students and did what he believed was best for the school. I didn’t always like everything Bill did, but I respected that he rarely wavered in any decision he made. Bill was also a micromanager. One of the buzz phrases in education during his time as principal was shared-decision making. I always thought Bill’s interpretation of this phrase was “You share my decision.”
Bill is now serving his second term as superintendent and does a pretty good job. I was proud to work for him.
In 2005, Rocky Hanna had just been named principal at Leon High School when I started my last ten years working there. Rocky was a third generation Leon alum, so he truly loved the school. He was a real motivator and when he latched on to a cause, he did his best to get everyone else involved. He got the students to raise record amounts of money for cancer research and collect cans of food for the local food bank.
Unfortunately, the superintendent promoted Rocky to a district-level job making lots more money with lots fewer duties. Rocky’s great qualities of being the cheerleader for worthy causes are being wasted which is a shame. I won't be surprised if Rocky's name is on a ballot in the future.
For my last three years, I have been honored to work for one of my best principals, Billy Epting. Billy isn’t much of a cheerleader or motivator, but he has a level head and handles touchy situations with grace. Billy is making my last years very pleasant and smooth, and I hope he continues for many years at Leon.
How do my bosses rank using the four qualities of a good leader? At some point, all six showed all of the qualities but not all at one time. They have also possessed the negative qualities, too, but again, not all the time. They are human and therefore, allowed a few mistakes. Like most of us, they are getting through the job one day at a time.
I've learned a great deal, both positive and negative, from these six men. I’d say that I’ve been blessed to work for four really good men. I’ll let you decide which four.