The Ottumwa Courier

Ottumwa

September 23, 2013

Leading the way

OTTUMWA — An Ottumwa graduate who also taught and coached in the district was influenced by his hometown while writing a book.

Specific teachers, administrators and coaches have contributed to Sam Miller's leadership style. Those theories started solidifying while he was superintendent of the Davis County school district. He's now superintendent at the Solon Community School District in Solon.

"The Secret Solution: How One Principal Discovered the Path to Success," uses some of the hard-won secrets he's learned about leadership, delivered in an easy-to-follow, "parable" form.

The story is that of a new principal; readers follow along as the former teacher works through various leadership categories (or "quadrants") in which two characteristics are examined: "To have organizational success, you have to have culture and accountability," Miller said. "Sometimes when you hold people accountable, if you have to confront them, it can harm the culture."

There are workplaces that have a very pleasant atmosphere where no one is expected to get much done. There are also places where there's a lot of accountability to get work done, and done well — but everyone hates coming to work.

He likes to use sports to explain the theory to his principals. When he uses college basketball coaches, it gets easy for an audience by the time he reaches the demanding but unpleasant quadrant.

"When I'm out speaking, right away, people call out, 'Bobby Knight.' He had high accountability, but the culture ... wasn't the best."

Miller had most of the book written, telling the story in a way that school principals would grasp. He wanted leaders to wonder, what level are we at? But he needed someone to look it over, someone with even more experience than he had. He took a chance and contacted nationally known speaker and author Todd Whitaker.

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