Bloomfield Hills Schools Profiles in Leadership – 2012

February 23, 2012

For the past two weeks, I have been helping Bloomfield Hills School Superintendent Robert Glass conduct a series of Town Hall meetings. The objective of these meetings is to inform the community about the District’s proposal to build a hybrid high school. (Hybrid means 2/3 new and 1/3 old.) As the locals well know, this is the fourth high school proposal in the last ten years – the first was withdrawn after a community firestorm, and the second and third proposals were defeated at the ballot box. To say that the idea of building a new high school has divided the community would be the understatement of the year in Bloomfield Hills.

So into this fire steps Mr. Glass, who was hired in 2010 and maybe destined, through the strength of his leadership to not only create peace in our time in Bloomfield Hills, but also to replace two aging and obsolete high schools with a 21st Century educational facility.

Night after night, I have watched Mr. Glass speak to crowds large and small about the hybrid high school. Most of the people walk into the room expecting to hear a sound and reasonable justification for spending up to $85 million dollars for a state of the art high school and they get that from Mr. Glass. He delivers with enthusiasm, patience and an empathetic heart, especially for those who have been most steadfast in their opposition to a new high school. But, what they also get is profound lessons in leadership. It is often said that good leadership is impossible to define but you will know it when you see it and that is what the Bloomfield Hills folks are getting from Mr. Glass at the town hall meetings. Some things that stand out for me are . . .

1)      Mr. Glass is relentlessly positive in the face of resistance. He starts the meeting with a smile and ends with a smile, regardless of the number of accusatorial questions.

2)      He can stand in the middle of the fire – a most difficult leadership task. For instance, he acknowledges the school district’s role in perpetuating the troubles in Bloomfield Hills, while simultaneously convincing folks that his number one goal is to end the community’s conflict – whether or not he gets a new high school.

3)      Finally, if good leadership takes a talent to “suffer with,” Mr. Glass has this talent in abundance. After talking for almost two hours straight, I have seen him remain behind in a semi-dark hall or even darker parking lot, to listen to a mother’s angst about her child’s schooling. He stays and listens for ten minutes, twenty minutes, or even a half hour if that is what it takes to be really helpful.

The Town Hall meetings will end soon and the Bloomfield Hills community will vote on a high school project. Although I hope the people vote “Yes,” what I hope even more strongly, is that they recognize their good fortune in having a leader like Rob Glass.

As Albert Schweitzer said: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.”