My first “official” day on the job was July 5, and before I could get started, I needed a work space. I had taken a few tours of the facilities before, and I saw that my new office was on the third floor–the top corner office with a great view. It was more like a penthouse.
And then I checked out the whole building and told the movers to put all of my belongings in the basement. You read correctly. The basement! My staff began to panic and wanted to know if I was okay.
I picked an office that is the size of a utility closet at best. No windows. No bathroom. No opulence resembling the typical superintendent ‘s office. Just enough room to hang a few pictures and my academic credentials.
Why would I do something like this? A few reasons…
1. One of the biggest critiques was that prior administrations were “too good” for the common man, and their elitist attitudes were ever-present because nobody could ever access the third floor. If I were an employee or if I lived in a town where a public official purposely tried to evade the people he/she serves, I’d be rather annoyed. Leaders recognize that, if you flaunt your white-collar status in a blue-color town, you have signed your own death warrant.
2. There was also talk of things happening in the lower levels and information never making its way up. Some also didn’t want to take the time to get to the third floor to share things. While my mind goes right to, “Why didn’t they email?” when technology consistently doesn’t work or you don’t have the training in how to do something, you won’t bother. Leaders should and will meet their staff, supporters, and critics anywhere they are.
3. Given the prior individuals who held the post before me, there was a stigma that the position was always first-class and everyone else was just cargo. Showing folks that I’m just like everyone else speaks volumes. Leaders can relate, empathize, and treat others with the respect they deserve.
My old office is now a district conference room–a room where all can enjoy the view and spread out to get work done.
Real leaders can do their job from any place, in any place. Real leaders also don’t hide their offices on a floor others can’t reach. It’s time to lead.