by Jeff Brincat


Whenever I see what I regard as a deficiency in our schools or school boards, I ask, "What would I do were I in that position?" I have employed these mental exercises when confronting challenges in my business, philanthropy, or any other difficult decision. I have had a lifetime of experience in leadership- be it as a Company Commander in the Marine Corps, 27 years of leading my own business, or when running a state agency here in Illinois under two governors and chairing several worthwhile philanthropic organizations- and I always come back to several core principles, which I think are essential to share given what is happening in Lake Forest Schools.

Portrait of a Leader

#1. Regardless of the institution or purpose, all leadership comes from the top.

You have to want to be in charge and be willing to be unpopular. Regardless of what has called you to occupy that seat, be in charge and lead rather than manage. There should be no ambiguity as to who is responsible for making and accepting the consequences of decisions, regardless of how collaborative the processes are within the institution.

#2. Good Leaders make their positions known.

There is no purpose in lighting a candle and then hiding it under a box. People should never wonder where their leadership stands on important issues. When setting out a vision for strategic direction, good leaders take this down to the needed level on additional vectors—not to minutia, but to every critical decision point or leadership "fork in the road."

#3. 100% clarity is vital.

You can't have a foot in different camps to set an example or have folks wondering where you stand on important issues. Policies like "zero tolerance" have to be shouted repeatedly from the rooftops. This ensures our positions and policies are crystal clear to ensure maximum compliance and hold individuals responsible when they do not adhere to policy.

#4. Silence is NOT an option.

There will be many uncomfortable issues. Face them head-on and communicate this expectation with your subordinates. Nothing (except wine) gets better on its own.

#5. Challenging times require more transparency.

People take comfort in visible leaders, especially in tough times. Pitfalls and failures are inevitable. Candid and open leaders emit a culture of optimism and let everyone know that bad times are temporary with the right commitment to improvement. People should never have to go looking for you, literally or figuratively.

#6. Good leaders don't demand loyalty; they exhibit it.

Your subordinates will never reach their potential if they have to look over their shoulders to see if they are being supported. Short-sighted leaders think it's about them, while leaders with vision know it's about those under them. Our subordinates need us to allow them to take chances to excel.

#7. Organizations rarely outperform the quality of their leadership.

Good leaders make the most of the capabilities of the organizations they serve. You don't see teams outperform their coaching, but good coaching can get the most out of even mediocre players. Good leadership causes people to reach the peak of their capabilities.

#8. Good leaders don't inflict pain; they absorb it.

To be sure, there are intimidatory forms of leadership that cause pain and heartache for everyone, but those only work until there is a bigger fear. Leadership based on fear inevitably fails.

Too often, especially recently, what we have needed to see from our elected boards (they ARE elected officials who ran for office) has been absent. These boards have allowed a vindictive bureaucrat to label thousands of local parents "the opposition" in a direct challenge and insubordination to the stated desire of D115 Board President John Noble. 

We have seen an approach of "just keep quiet" as it relates to the safety of our children and a downplaying of the actual vulnerabilities. We have seen the lack of focus on the fiscal responsibility the community deserves, as taxpayers are now burdened with repaying three bonds at once! Even when test scores indicate that leadership has failed to help children reach their full potential, administrators and board members have blamed the tests themselves, "test culture" and "achievement culture," etc.

I do not doubt the good intentions of our elected leaders put up by the caucus to serve on our school boards. Sadly, when looking at outcomes, our boards have fallen well short of what the community deserves: our teachers have not received the support they merit, parents have not had the clear and open communication they need, and ultimately, our kids have paid the price for this lack of leadership.

We at Parents Care call on our elected Boards to act as leaders and demand real leadership from the superintendent so that our schools fulfill the promise to families and children of educational excellence.

Best Regards,

Jeff Brincat

Board President

Parents Care