To the Editor:
Selection of a superintendent of schools is always a challenging task, but with all the recent turmoil it has become even more difficult. In reviewing candidates it is important to recognize that, as in any organization from schools to corporations to nonprofits, there are two primary components to leadership that I call the “visionary” and the “managerial.”
The visionary side consists of the entities’ goals and aspirations — what they want to achieve. The managerial side marshals the resources (personnel, finances, physical infrastructure, etc.) to bring the vision to reality.
In the case of a school system there are many contributors to the Visionary side.
They clearly include the superintendent, but also the staff, the Board of Education members who typically volunteer because of their desire to influence the vision, and the community at large. The involvement of any of the above will vary from community to community and even within a community over time so there is no set formula for developing the school system’s vision.
The managerial side is quite different. A good leader, or superintendent, takes input from many sources but ultimately has to develop and implement the action plan to achieve the vision. It doesn’t work by committee, it doesn’t work with distributed and uncoordinated responsibilities.
There are certain qualifications for a superintendent that are mandatory, such as proper certifications. Others, like good communication skills, are important but relative strength or weakness in those non-mandatory qualifications can be offset by other skills. I would submit that strong managerial skills needs to be a mandatory qualification.
Someone could get A+ in every other desired characteristic, but if they are not a strong manager and don’t see the managerial function as both critical to success and something they feel comfortable pursuing, then few if any of the goals from the visionary side will be achieved.