Leadership in Challenging Times

Leading looks easy when times are good and things are running smoothly. It is when conditions get rough that leadership is tested. We arguably find ourselves now in the most challenging time globally in recent history, considering the pandemic alone. Over the past seven months we have witnessed some leaders rising to an unforeseen occasion and others stumbling through it. What has made the difference?

I believe a leader's most important first step is to keep their head - stay calm, keep thinking, keep using the same decision-making process as always, but maybe faster. Assess the situation, take in all of the data, listen to all stakeholders, consider all of your options, avoid being reactionary. Next, communicate well; recognize who your decisions affect and who else cares and give them as complete information as you can as quickly - and often - as you can. Create alternate plans and remain flexible, ready to alter course if the situation changes or new information comes to light. Take responsibility for your (or your team's) decisions and the consequences; this builds trust. And take care of yourself and those around you.

I would not second-guess our school board as they have wrestled with decisions on opening schools; they have had information that I have not, and certainly received a huge amount of input from all sides. What I appreciate is that they, and the county office team, continue to show up, to debate options and to put in many hours trying to meet so many conflicting needs. I believe their biggest stumble came when they veered from their usual decision-making system and tried to pick a plan before soliciting balanced input. Once they got back on track (listening to stakeholders, discussing multiple options), I felt my trust in their leadership returning, regardless of their final decision. If I am elected to join them, I will work to make sure we always provide the leadership this community deserves.

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Linda Tatsapaugh


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