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From the ED 3.14.13

Dear Colleagues,

“Good is the enemy of great” – Jim Collins
“When outstanding becomes so easily available,
average is over.” – Thomas Friedman

These are two of my favorites authors and are two of the best speakers I have ever had the opportunity to see speak. Think about what they are telling us in these two quotes – we must keep striving to be ‘great’ or ‘outstanding’ – we cannot expect to continue to succeed without innovation and change. Independent schools are traditionally risk and change adverse – it is built into our culture. The traditions which we have built at our schools for decades, and at times centuries, are a critical component of our success but also may be holding us back from improving.

Most of you represent the voice of reason and practicality in your schools – you are the ones to remind others that a school must still operate within the constraints of a business. Collins suggested in his talk at the NAIS Annual Conference that this is a well-intentioned idea, but perhaps the wrong idea. Most things in life are just average. To get from good to great our schools need a culture of discipline.  In fact, for many of our schools, their financial sustainability depends upon developing a culture of discipline. The Business Officer is the leader of a team of professionals that must practice a culture of discipline.

Collins goes on to tell us that no single person has enough power to make big change happen on their own, but one individual can have enough negative power to derail change on their own. You are all in unique and powerful leadership roles within your schools. Our schools need your leadership through these fast changing, challenging times.

I believe that Collins’ characteristics of a great leader are appropriate for your positions. The three factors he believes are critical to differentiate a great leader from a mediocre one:

  1. Fanatic discipline
  2. Empirical creativity
  3. Production paranoia (my favorite – learn from the mistakes you survive)

If any of this resonates with you, please read Collins’ most recent book – Great by Choice. I believe you will find this very helpful as you navigate the myriad of issues you deal with on a daily basis.

For those of you that may be taking some time off during your school’s spring break, be sure to take some time for yourself – rest and relaxation are so important to you.  It allows you to come back to school creative, energized, and innovative.



Marc Levinson
Executive Director, MISBO

From → MISBO

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