Written by R. Patt Lilly, President and CEO of the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce
A funny thing about leadership, it can be difficult to describe, but you sure know when you see it and you sure know when you don’t. Referring to the dictionary, a leader is defined as a person who leads others along a way; a guide. Seems like a simple enough definition, but we know that the issue of leadership can be complex, especially in the context of community.
I have always been fascinated with history, especially political history and have probably read a dozen or more biographies on U.S. presidents. There is one thing that strikes me about most of our past presidents, regardless of their status in history; they tend to be ordinary people, that when faced with extraordinary challenges, achieved significant accomplishments because of their ability to lead.
The recent events involving the St. Joseph School District pose challenges for the district and the community. While many may focus on the results of the state audit or the ongoing controversies involving the District’s administration and Board, I tend to be more focused on where will the leadership rise from to address the extraordinary challenges facing the School District? Who on the School Board and in the administration will rise to the challenge and be the person or persons who will lead others and act as a guide in moving the District forward?
In many respects, the issues confronting the School District should serve as a wakeup call to all of us. Not just in terms of the District’s current ills, but also in terms of those who we elect to serve in leadership positions in our community. Leadership may not be something we typically think much about when we consider a candidate, but in reality when we elect people to serve in public office we have a duty to ourselves and our community to elect people who we believe have the ability to be leaders. While the need might not be apparent at the time of an election, there is little doubt that in a crisis leadership is always needed.
Let’s hope those in leadership positions in St. Joseph will rise to the challenges facing our School District and community. If not, they should step aside and make room for those who are willing and able to lead.