As I’ve served on boards over the years, I’ve been fascinated by the dynamics between the board and its leadership (in our case, the superintendent). It’s a tricky relationship. A board has responsibility to hold leadership accountable, and make a change when necessary. Yet, it’s important for the board to demonstrate support for the leader they’ve chosen. That doesn’t mean a board doesn’t question and challenge. In fact, it’s the board’s responsibility to do so. But, micromanagement by a board must be avoided at every turn.
When I joined the WCS board over four years ago, I was curious about what I would think of WCS’s leader once I could see him in action up close. What I found with Dr. Looney was, not only an outstanding educator, but an exceptionally gifted leader. This guy has serious leadership chops. The results speak loudly.
If I’ve accurately observed a key to his success, it’s that he understands that he must have a strong team around him. That’s no easy task, as so many wannabe leaders have found…particularly in a large organization. Dr. Looney is quick to give credit to his team, but also capable of taking uncomfortable action to strengthen the team when necessary.
That’s one of the reasons I joined many others in the community to work to keep Dr. Looney our superintendent. He’s built a great team, which gets stronger daily. I’m very thankful we were successful, and that so many people throughout the community expressed their support for him.
After being assured he would stay, I asked Dr. Looney whether he had new initiatives in mind. (Good leaders always do.) I wasn’t disappointed when he shortly afterwards unveiled to the Board, then the public, Six Big Ideas. They are:
Whether all of the ideas will be implemented will be influenced heavily by community interest and input from his team. (Dr. Looney is good at hearing both.)
However, I’m concerned that we don’t always provide an environment where our superintendent can be successful. When a board is working with a strong leader as their CEO, they cannot micro-manage. It’s not only unproductive; it’s harmful. I’m afraid we regularly cross the line between accountability and micro-management. Even with our fiduciary, legal, and transparency responsibilities, we can conduct ourselves in a way that gives our leader a good chance at being successful. These are not conflicting concepts. A proper balance will produce excellent results.
Dr. Looney isn’t perfect, as he would quickly admit. But, I will continue to support him as our leader unless he gives a compelling reason otherwise. We may disagree from time to time, but I cannot imagine ever thinking he doesn't have the best interests of our students, their families, and our community at heart. That, and serious leadership chops, put WCS in good hands.