Skip to content

From the ED 10.6.16

Dear Colleagues,

Well THIS week certainly did not go as I had planned. I arrived on Hilton Head Island late Monday, but by Tuesday morning the change of plan emails were beginning, mostly from our Florida schools. Just as the rest of the MISBO staff arrived late Tuesday afternoon, the South Carolina Governor issued a mandatory evacuation of the island that forced MISBO to cancel our Fall Conference. Over a year of planning evaporated before my eyes. The silver lining is this: everyone involved is exactly where they need to be, whether it is at home or on call to protect their school and students. Our presenters have been extremely professional and understanding and I could not be prouder of the MISBO staff in how they handled the cancellation and tackled everything that needed to be done – and quickly! We are continuing to work out the deeper details, and will communicate with each constituency as soon as possible. I want everyone in the path of Hurricane Matthew to know that our thoughts and best wishes are with you for peace, safety, and recovery.

Last month I wrote about MISBO’s new vision and the work that MISBO has done over the past couple of years to get the association moving in a tremendous forward direction. What does it take for an association or a school to continually be moving forward, acting with intention, offering new innovative programs, ensuring sustainability, etc.? I believe the answer is strong, thoughtful leadership. However, leadership has many facets. Most will think about the CEO, executive director, or head of school first when they think about leadership. Clearly these leaders are critically important to the success of any organization. NAIS’ recently released Independent School Magazine’s theme is Good to Great Governance, which I will discuss more in a moment. In the article, “Authentic Leadership in an Era of Change” by Donna Orem, Interim President, NAIS, she discusses research about leadership traits. The leaders of independent schools as well as other organizations receive high scores for “emotional intelligence”. As leaders in your schools, regardless of your position, honing your emotional intelligence will help you with all of your relationships and lead to success.

Components of emotional intelligence include empathy which is a key component discussed in my current favorite book, Creative Confidence by David and Tom Kelley. Empathy allows us as human beings to understand what motivates and drives others. It provides a framework for what I generically call “quality customer service”. We all have customers we serve – parents, students, board, faculty, staff, etc. If we can be empathetic leaders, we can provide quality service to all of these constituents by understanding them better. When I was a business officer long ago, a new head of school wondered why I would not only be up early on snowy mornings, but why I would actually drive a snowplow when I had staff to perform this task. The hour or two I spent driving a snow plow on those rare mornings made a huge impact on the entire maintenance staff. They knew I fully understood the sacrifices they made for our school – to ensure that all of the students, faculty, and staff could arrive safely. I was not sitting in a warm office with a cup of coffee; I was working with my team. I can relay countless examples, but you get the message – empathy leads to great leadership.

In the case of our association and your schools, there are many other components of leadership that must be working collaboratively to ensure sustainable success. MISBO has not been successful due to my leadership. MISBO has been successful because of the shared leadership with staff and, equally as important, because of the leadership of the MISBO Board of Directors. MISBO, like your schools, will always be governed by a board. Heads (executive directors) will come and go, but the board will continue to lead. In another article in Independent School Magazine, “Lead Better: The Case for a Good Governance Committee” by Dane Peters, he articulates the critical importance of this committee in developing board leadership.

For most of our schools and associations, the governance committee is responsible for recruitment, nomination, training, and succession planning for board trustees and leaders. When I first arrived at MISBO I read the bylaws and realized that they were hindering our ability to grow and thrive as an association. With the leadership of the governance committee chair (Steven Wennerstrom, retired) we overhauled the by-laws. One significant aspect was to remove a series of restrictions on who could serve on the board. This has led to a much more diverse board which includes business officers, human resource directors, technology directors, facility directors, heads of school, and an association leader. It also allowed for more geographic diversity, which is very important as MISBO has grown to serve 335 schools in 16 states and DC. Term limits were reset and a formal board leadership succession plan model was established. All of this has led to development of an engaged, generative, strategic thinking board for MISBO which has worked closely with me and the MISBO staff to enhance the offerings for our members and provide high quality customer service. I would argue that board leadership is at least as important as head of school (executive director) leadership and the most productive is when the two work together towards meeting the mission and driving the vision of the organization.

I want to thank the MISBO board and specifically the current chair, Julie Ray, for the ongoing support she provides me personally and the association as a whole. Julie is a friend, a colleague, a collaborator, and a great leader for MISBO and for her school, Mount Paran Christian School.

I encourage each and every one of you to look for leadership throughout your schools and within yourself, and then be empathetic leaders, which will lead to quality customer service, and ultimately the reason we all do what we do every day. We need to provide an environment where our students can learn, grow, thrive, and be leaders themselves.


Marc Levinson
Executive Director, MISBO

We power independent schools.™

One Comment
  1. Julie Ray permalink

    Once again, an amazing blog article. Marc is too kind in recognizing me in it. I have learned tremendously from him over the years, and leadership during challenges like Hurricane Matthew shines through the rich relationships evident throughout this association. Proud to be a part of MISBO!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: