September 8, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Leadership with courage, values and goals

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher who lived from 384-322 B.C., wrote, “Education is the best provision for the journey to old age.”

Who among us would not agree?

Whether we learn through formal education or through experience and the “school of hard knocks”—or a combination of these—we are always learning.

As I have said many times before, I thank God for my kindergarten through high school Catholic education as well as my IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis) classes and what little post-graduate work I did at Butler University in Indianapolis.

Last spring, I attended a program about leadership and education at Ivy Tech Community College’s main campus in Indianapolis. The speaker was Eugene G. White, superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools. He has also been a teacher, coach and school administrator, and is the author of Leadership Beyond Excuses: The Courage to Hold the Rope (Power Publishing, Indianapolis).

I bought his book because I was so impressed with what he shared with the audience, and I had it autographed for a friend. However, she has not received it yet because I wanted to re-read certain chapters in the book so I could share some of White’s ideas early in the new school year.

What I write here, however, does not do justice to his book. I merely skim the surface with hopes that others will better understand his basic tenets of leadership. From his presentation, I also realized that his principles and mine coincide.

White’s insight is applicable to all areas of leadership, but I especially recommend it for educators since education is my theme for this column. For brevity, I concentrate here on the book’s introduction as an overview:

• Chapter 1 explores the theories and practices of leaders.

• Chapter 2 defines, identifies and creates the “rope of leadership.”

• Chapters 3 through 10 refute the following excuses used to explain why he or she is not a successful leader: “If I had better followers ... . If my followers would just follow my vision and plan ... . If I just did not have to deal with politics ... . If I just had more money ... . If I just had more time ... . If the system would work more smoothly ... . If only I didn’t have so much competition ... . If only I didn’t have to deal with change ... .”

I do not consider myself a leader. However, if I applied White’s skills to certain aspects of my life, perhaps I could be.

I was impressed with his presentation at Ivy Tech as well as with his values and goals. They remind me so much of what I witnessed and learned through the Catholic school education of my youth.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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