I delivered the following remarks today to a ceremony and reception honoring the Iowa Administrators of the Year. The School Administrators of Iowa hosted the event and I had the honor of following Governor Branstad in addressing the attendees. I thought a lot about my father, a career teacher and school administrator, when I wrote these words and I’d like to share them with you now.

Good afternoon,

I want to extend my appreciation to the School Administrators of Iowa for this invitation and opportunity to recognize and to celebrate exceptional leadership in our schools. Taking the time to acknowledge these tremendously talented and dedicated leaders in Iowa’s education system is important and highlights the incredibly critical role of leadership to our schools and our children.

School leadership scholar Ken Liethwood has studied high performing school systems and leaders and the conditions around which schools have made dramatic improvements. Leithwood noted in his studies “there are virtually no instances of troubled schools being turned around without the intervention of a powerful leader.” This is worth repeating: “there are virtually no instances of troubled schools being turned around without the intervention of a powerful leader.”

The importance of leadership cannot be understated. It is a crucial, if not the crucial, element in what has made our schools great in the past and the necessary ingredient for what our schools will desperately need in the days to come.

Leadership, for all it’s importance, is difficult to quantify. But we all recognize it’s power to drive toward positive change, respect it’s inspiration, and feel when we stand in it’s presence.

The list of characteristics that make up an effective leader is long, situational, and contextual. But I’d like to give you my short list of ingredients in what makes up great leaders.

First, vision. The vision to see what could be, instead of what is. Vision to see opportunity, instead of scarcity. And the vision to believe in what others say can’t be done.

Second, real leadership demands courage. Courage to tackle the hard problems that others ignore, to take stands that are often unpopular or even strongly opposed, and the courage to rise up again – and again – and again from the many small failures that accompany challenging difficult issues.

Finally, real leaders understand personal sacrifice. They put the wellbeing of others ahead of themselves. They put in time and energy when everyone else has long gone home, and they are willing to sacrifice their own goals and pride in pursuit of something larger and more enduring than themselves.

The leaders recognized by the School Administrators of Iowa exemplify these characteristics and today we acknowledge their incredible service and dedication.

Thank you so much Dan Smith for the chance to be part of this day … and to stand with these tremendous Iowa educators.

Jason Glass
Des Moines, IA