Overcoming Challenges: A Tale of Leadership in a Christian School

In a small Christian school, I was hired as the new principal after both the pastor and the previous principal were terminated due to their inability to collaborate effectively. Left behind was a retired volunteer teacher who sought a place to spend his days, as his wife didn’t want him lingering around the house. Unbeknownst to me, this volunteer harbored loyalty towards my predecessor and worked behind the scenes to create difficulties for me. Upon assuming my position, I noticed a lack of structure, with rules and procedures being neglected, and inappropriate behavior between the volunteer and female teenage students, which resulted in undeserved passing grades. Upon reviewing the math tests, these girls discovered they had missed at least six months’ worth of material.

A crisis ensued when, one day after school, I walked to my car and realized my car key was missing from my key ring. After an extensive search, I discovered that the volunteer teacher had removed the key, assuming it belonged to my predecessor. Needless to say, I was furious.

As a leader, my behavior style combines qualities of an Otter and a Lion. Being an otter, I am optimistic, trusting, and people-oriented. My Leading From Your Strengths Assessment highlights my ability to consider the entire problem, including relationships, the impact of my decisions, and the emotions of others. I am skilled at mediating conflicts between individuals. However, in this situation, I realized that if the issue wasn’t resolved promptly, the situation would spiral out of control. This called for my secondary behavioral style as a lion—an assertive problem solver with a focus on tasks. Lions are known for their direct and concise communication.

I had to determine whether I could get the volunteer on board or if he needed to be let go. Given that I had a school conference and a weekend ahead, I made myself clear in a manner that left no room for misunderstanding. I told him, “I will be away for the next five days. During that time, I want you to decide whether you are willing to support and work with me. If you cannot answer ‘yes,’ I do not want you to return on Monday. You will no longer be employed at this school.”

The outcome? He chose to leave the position voluntarily.

In future articles, I will share stories of leaders who made different choices and the results they achieved. If you require leadership coaching to rally your team, I encourage you to book an appointment with Karen [website link].