Complete leadership failure in safety

Recently, my staff and I have been evaluating some of the toughest schools in California.  When I say tough, I mean dangerous – drugs, guns, knives, and lots of fighting.  In some ways, it reminds me of my days working for the Feds inside America’s Heartland’s jails and prisons.  That’s a shame and another topic altogether.

Today I wanted to focus on the leadership failure that you should be aware of in your Agency.  Why some make it, and others don’t we will never truly understand.  However, there is a catchall phrase that sums it up, and that is “mental toughness.”

During one of my visits, after stumbling upon bags of cocaine and staff divulging their deepest concerns, it was painfully clear that the principal had given up.  As Richard Sams use to say, “the inmates were running the asylum.”  So what makes a person give up?  What makes them throw in the towel?  And why do we continue to employ them in the face of liability exposures for our students?

The answer is a complete leadership meltdown

First, let’s take a quick look at some of the issues.  When you are trying to keep a school and its students safe, knowing that you are dealing with delinquent youth, you must not check the front door but leave the back door open.  Students are wanded when coming in the front door and then sent to their classes through a series of gates, locks, and fencing.  Once inside the fortress, the students would walk right out the back door and over to 7-11 for snacks and drinks.  Their friends, not students of the school, would follow them back and join them for class, allowing gang members on their campus.

The answer to this mayhem is a complete leadership meltdown.  Straight from the top and all the way down the mountain.  Leadership at the District Office has failed to uphold their responsibility in selecting, training, and disciplining leadership (principal) at the site level.  And since no one above him cares, then the Principal doesn’t care either.  This shows in the way he deports himself in his day-to-day dealings.  And since he doesn’t care, the staff don’t care either.  No leadership, no discipline, no effort.   And who suffers – EVERYONE.   It’s time that people take ownership.  If you haven’t read the book Extreme Ownership, I highly recommend you do. Here’s a link to it for your convenience.


The students, staff, parents, and society as a whole because the students are seen as lost causes, throwaways.  And that means that the odds are not in their favor for having a comfortable life and that relates to the rest of society picking up the slack down the road.

How does leadership meltdown

What leads to a person giving up?  First, it comes down to mental toughness.  This is something that must be developed.  In hard schools like these, learning mental toughness is not done here.  This is the place where you bring mental toughness to the front door.  It has to be in your back pocket when you drive in the parking lot.  Somewhere in this line, the hiring team selected the wrong candidate.  Not the candidate’s fault at all, but it is their burden.  So the going gets tough, and they don’t have what it takes to make it.

The money stinks.  Face it; education pays worse than crime these days.  Remember, crime doesn’t pay.  And that means if you have to fight for something and it isn’t out of the kindness of your heart, then the money needs to be there.  But it isn’t.  So strike two is called.

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