3 Lessons From a Retiring Superintendent

James Terrell, Orleans Community Schools

I’ve always found it interesting to listen to the advice of men and women who have reached the end of their road. They provide a perspective that no one else can give…hindsight. How do you want to be remembered on your last day?

As I sat in the local cafe with board members, administrators, and staff members, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized at the sheer respect that the people in that room had for the outgoing superintendent. He was a humble man that was finishing a long, distinguished career.

One by one, those who knew him best took turns telling stories. They spoke with gratitude. And even though a few accomplishments were mentioned, their focus was primarily on the person, not the performance. Here are three leadership lessons I learned on this night…

1.  Relationships Matter. “I’ve never seen you behave unprofessional, even toward the most difficult people or circumstances” said one board member. They talked of how the superintendent was able to communicate in ways that made people feel appreciated, heard, and even understood. Here sat a leader that genuinely cared about the people he oversaw.

2.  Truthfulness Matters. One of his secretaries recalled, “I’ll never forget the first conversation you had with me. You told me to NEVER lie to you. Honesty has always been important to you.” The higher up the chain you move, the greater the temptation to twist reality to make circumstances seem better than they are. This leader wanted the truth, and it caused him to be remembered for it.

3.  Integrity Matters.  “Integrity” is a word that used to describe the hull of a ship. It meant that the condition on the inside reflected what you saw on the outside. What you see is what you get. Person after person talked about the superintendent’s morality and reminisced on how this morality seeped through into his work with the school.

I can only hope that my last day is as positive as what I witnessed tonight. It doesn’t happen by accident. Fruit like this can only come from years of sowing the right kind of seed…love, honesty, and morality.

What are some qualities that you have seen from great leaders?

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About Chris Stevens

I'm an Elementary Principal, husband, father of three, and an imperfect follower of Christ. I have eight years experience at the Jr-Sr High level and 14 years experience speaking at various churches.
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