Leaders need courage because they are making difficult decisions all the time, said Mark Thiessen, Superintendent of School District 27.
Thiessen was speaking at the annual Williams Lake Leadership prayer breakfast held at the Pioneer Complex recently, where local educators were honoured by the leadership committee.
Up until Thiessen became the principal of the elementary school in Likely in 1999, he said most of his leadership experience was informal.
He’d coached soccer and grew up in a big family.
During his first few days on the job as principal he travelled to a few homes in the community to meet with parents in person.
“I had to have some courage and be brave,” he recalled.
“It worked out really well. I still have good relationships with those families several years later.”
While he is the boss of the district, Thiessen said he answers to several bosses, such as elected officials, management staff, principals, vice-principals, teacher and support staff unions, 4,300 students, all of their parents, taxpayers of the region and the ministry of education.
“Besides those bosses and limitations, I get to do exactly what I want,” he said.
Living and working in a small community can be the best and worst part of a leader’s job, Thiessen added.
“As leaders we are often under the microscope.”
Social media has made life more complex too because sometimes a political rally can be sparked in three to four seconds, he said.
When he starts getting bogged down in bureaucracy, budgets, politics or dealing with a difficult situation, Thiessen said he often stops typing on his keyboard and looks out the window to watch the students playing in the Marie Sharpe Elementary School yard next to the board office.
“I have the privilege then of being reminded why I do what I do every day,” he said.
Each year the leadership prayer breakfast takes place in Williams Lake with the intention to reaffirm faith in God, uphold leaders in prayer and provide an opportunity for the community to share in spiritual matters.