A leader’s legacy

Every sitting or aspiring head at every independent school should consider the implications Michael Schrage presents here.

The greatest threat to Steve Jobs’s legacy….is his board of directors.

Jobs himself feared this. “Hewlett and Packard built a great company, and they thought they had left it in good hands,” Jobs told Isaacson. “But now it’s being dismembered and destroyed. I hope I’ve left a stronger legacy so that will never happen at Apple.”

Leaving a charismatic legacy is one thing; leaving behind a board with wisdom, judgment, and entrepreneurial courage is quite another….Board competence — as much or more than successor CEO headmaster capabilities — determine how well cultural values and leadership legacies endure or ebb away.

Independent schools flourished by the strength of many hands even before Pearl Rock Kane gave “farewell” to the “lone warrior” leadership model. Without many hands making vision into familiar and constant practice, even the visions of a prophet will fade.

Do our distinguishing programs rely on the vision of a single leader, or upon communal values established and maintained throughout our governance?

Have we led the communal work of establishing powerful mission and shared purpose drawn from a vision, or do we hope a “strong reputation” and “the highest expectations” will be sufficient?

At every level of our leadership, we should know what will change – and will NOT change – upon our departure – if we wish to build an enduring legacy within our schools.

Apple will answer these questions, one way or the other, in days ahead – as will each independent school community facing leadership transitions.


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