Essential Qualities of Exceptional Leaders – from Elementary Education to Corporate Boards

Assessing the true quality of a leader can often be challenging. However, during a crisis, their true capabilities surface. 

The co-founders of this community emphasize the value of “bringing your whole self to work, engaging your head, heart, and briefcase.” 

Without a doubt, Dr. Tim Arnold earned his position as Superintendent of Will County District 92 through his intelligence and impeccable credentials. Adrienne Guerrero, a parent with two grade school daughters in the district, often praised Tim’s exceptional communication skills and reassuring demeanor, especially during times of unprecedented challenges faced by the school system. 

We were thrilled when Dr. Arnold agreed to engage in a conversation, granting us a glimpse behind the curtain to discover some of the key leadership principles that shape his philosophy.

Here are a few highlights from this engaging leadership conversation:

  • Tim gracefully corrected Adrienne when she said, “your school district”. He wants to nurture a WE rather than elevate a ME. Business alignment of stakeholders in the context of education means ensuring that everyone involved—such as students, parents, teachers, administrators, the school board, and the state of Illinois (as a governing entity)—are on the same page regarding the objectives, strategies, and decisions related to the school district. As you listen to our discussion, you see that Tim genuinely “walks this talk”.
  • Straight talk is best. Sometimes we have to say, “I don’t know” and provide a path to find out. Honest dialogue around reality. This requires a willingness for the leader to show vulnerability is key to building trust.
  • One size (policy) can’t fit all. A policy for a high school student can’t fit the 1st grade. We had a great discussion relating this notion to the varying options for corporate hybrid work policy.
  • When dealing with frustration and inappropriate behavior, it’s crucial not to take it personally, but rather to approach the situation with empathy and understanding. Inappropriate behavior is often a symptom of an underlying issue, and it’s essential to try and discover what might be driving that behavior. It’s important to prioritize listening throughout the process; and recognize that some people say “I don’t feel heard” when they don’t get their way. It’s important to navigate this situation with empathy and discernment.
  • Tim’s practice of reminding himself of his “why” through the Ikigai principle is a valuable approach to finding clarity and resilience in the face of adversity. Ikigai is a Japanese concept that represents the intersection of four elements:

    1. Passion: What you love and enjoy doing.
    2. Mission: What the world needs and where your skills and talents can contribute.
    3. Vocation: What you can be paid for to support a livelihood.
    4. Profession: What you are good at and what you excel in.

We are confident you will find the same benefits from listening to the interview as we did while conducting it.

To see Dr. Tim Arnold’s leadership in action, visit the Will County District 92 website at Connect with Tim directly on LinkedIn.

Tom & Adrienne