Leaders have a variety of styles when leading a state, community, business or school.

One person may lead by exercising power because of being at the “top of the pyramid.” Another leader may work to share power, work to communicate needs and goals, and help people be involved in the process of decision-making.

When one leads by power and control, it is easy to address a challenge by announcing a plan; then expect everyone will work towards implementation. Staff and citizens are free to agree or disagree with the decisions. In addition, those affected can spit, flog and stone the top decision-maker.

In modern times, we have replaced a whipping post and shackles with words, public meetings and media to let the world know how awful and unreasonable the leader is when difficult decisions are made. That is the easy way. The public, media and staff can demand an answer to “What are YOU going to do?” Then work to destroy the leader who responded to the demand. The challenge most likely has the words “not enough money.”

Another leader (or maybe the same leader) may lead by letting employees and citizens get involved in the process of addressing a challenge. That leader may bring together different parts of the organization to share the challenge and seek suggestions for solutions. The different groups affected by decisions can become part of the solution by banding together, working toward solving the challenge.

Another option is that they can become even more entrenched in calcified status quo and resist looking at anything that may change their protected turf. Getting involved and becoming part of the solution is a more difficult road to take, because then there is not just one person to blame when solutions are implemented.

Who are the losers when people choose to throw stones rather than use stones to build a path? When it is Rapid City Area Schools, students lose, staff loses and the community loses.

The financial woes of Rapid City School District have evolved over a period of many years. Some current programs and staff benefits began with a desire. Then it is declared a need. Shortly it becomes a right. At what point is the program and staff involved evaluated on the impact of improved student outcomes? Is the program or benefit still necessary or being implemented with fidelity? Every crisis provides an opportunity to adjust what has been done in the past.

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The blame does not belong to any one person. In the past, actions to address the fiscal situation of the district have been delayed by the school board, administration, staff and the community because tough decisions have been derailed by emotional pleas.

Data and facts should be part of decision-making. Now the financial situation has become an even larger challenge because it is easier to blame than to solve problems. It is time to come together, not split apart, when times are tough.

Where are you in this picture?

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