“Mrs. Scott: I am informed by Mrs. Kaine that you do not cooperate with her in the proper spirit in relation to the changes and improvements to be made in your department. I am very sorry to hear of this. I have stated more than once that Mrs. Kaine’s suggestions and orders are to be carried out, and I can certainly make no exception in your case; in fact, I am sorry that you take my time in compelling me to repeat an order which has already been given more than once. Mrs. Kaine is not here for the purpose of begging teachers to do what she asks, nor should it be required to repeat an order. I hope you will look at this matter calmly, and when you have thought it over, I think you will find that it is best for you as well as for the school to obey Mrs. Kaine and carry out her suggestions in the proper spirit. The school will be will satisfied with nothing less than this. I hope the matter will not come to my attention again. Yours Truly. -“December 28, 1894,” Booker T. Washington
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
In an earlier “Washington Digest” or “Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary” appearing just this week, we found the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University), Booker T. Washington, seeking the services of one Mrs. Kaine to come alongside him to assist him with the mission and vision-the trajectory and tradition of Tuskegee Institute (University). And a quote recently taken from Forbes Magazine speaks profoundly to this dynamic of selecting capable leaders: “A leader’s job isn’t to be the smartest person in the room, but to fill the room with the smartest, most creative and most capable people. It’s when the leader gets out of the way that the real magic happens.” Yet, in the present correspondence, Mr. Washington was unable to “get out of the way [so] that the real magic happens.” Having sought out and selected a capable colleague to come in to assist him, Mr. Washington directed this communiqué to an apparent recalcitrant employee who simply refused to “cooperate with [Mrs. Kaine] in the proper spirit in relation to the changes and improvements to be made in [her] department.” It is a poor leader indeed who attempts to fix what is not broken; but, when there are clear and obvious needs for change and improvement-needs that all agree to but either have lacked the courage or competence to implement-and the leader assigns a capable, courageous and competent person to implement such change then it is incumbent upon the employee-no required of this employee-to comply with the dictate and direction. Moreover, when a leader of a large organization has to be engaged in matters already decided upon, it takes him or her from far more pressing matters requiring the attention of the chief executive officer. (This is why the leader selects competent persons to assist him so that he does not have to do both his or her job and the job of others.) And this indeed is where the “magic happens.” For when any leader selects or endorses the leadership of a particular unit, it is his or her strongest “hope [that] the matter will not come to [their] attention again.”
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.