Spring 2017

Onward Leaders Blog: Cohort 1

to a young child

Margaret, are you grieving

Over Goldengrove unleaving?

Leaves like the things of man, you

With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

Ah! as the heart grows older

It will come to such sights colder

By and by, nor spare a sigh

Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;

And yet you wíll weep and know why.

Now no matter, child, the name:

Sorrow's springs are the same.

Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed

What heart heard of, ghost guessed:

It ís the blight man was born for,

It is Margaret you mourn for.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Full disclosure- my name is Margaret. Probably what caught my eye about this poem in Sister Rose’s third grade class at my parish school where I recited it by heart-accents and all.  Years later at a Jesuit University, I wrote an explication of the poem which is why it today still profoundly moves me. It is about the loss of innocence. This loss happens with leaders, too.  One cannot have a career that has not at some point brought one to his or her knees. It is the moment where you are floating along with vision and passion and amazing plans for the future and an event happens which is often out of your control and you are forced to pick up a glossy rock in your *professional garden and look beneath at all the creepy crawly ugliness beneath.

I love the line “Sorrow’s springs are the same.”  It makes one feel less alone. Illusion is inevitable if one is to carry on against the loneliness that envelops a leader when things go wrong.  And things do go wrong. People who don’t know you will judge you and attach malignant motivations against your most lofty of intentions. You will be in shock and you have two routes available. The first is to dig in and surround yourself with like-minded folk who will rail against the injustice and ignorance of it all- they will roll around in the mud beneath the glossy rock and eventually become the creepy crawling ugliness beneath and so will you.   Don’t do that-it leaves you stuck as the mud hardens around you and you can’t grow. Or you can seek out divergent views and dig for deeper understanding of how it may have gone wrong and grow.

The Onward Leaders grew from two experiences this spring. The first is from Bill Kirst form West Monroe Partners who came to speak to the Onward Leaders on managing change:  You can read his blog about the his experience with the Onward Leaders Cohort here:


From Bill: You have to respond in 24 hours- you don’t have to fix the problem in 24 hours. Phew! What a relief not to solve problems immediately and how wise it is to acknowledge the issue promptly, but allow yourself some time to respond rather than react.

The Onward Leaders participated in mock interviews with a parent, former principal, and a Deacon.  The interviewers pointed out that education language may not be familiar with the interviewing committee, as many are not educators.  Know your audience.

From Interviewers:  Use words people can understand- don’t say collaborate; describe how that would look.  Don’t talk about Professional Learning Communities; describe how you want the faculty, parents and students to work together in order to continually improve.  

Gerard Manley Hopkins also wrote this gorgeous uplifting poem.  It speaks to the great joy and beauty of life –which leaders must seek out (you can roll a bit in the mud-but don’t stay).  Same poet- two different themes. The Catholic school leader must recognize both the joys and sorrows of leadership and navigate both with humility and grace.

Glory be to God for dappled things –

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.