I am glad that so many have responded to my Bob Durkin post. I want to make some more comments because I think he goes to the core of what leadership is about, a good thing to discuss in a presidential year. Bob went to college with Rudy Guiliani and they seemed to share some similarities.
Bob became principal after a string of people had been at the school for a short time. The UFT became used to having control. There was a hard core group of teachers who liked to control the school. Some of them were excellent teachers and some of them were not.
One teacher in particular became his instant enemy. Bob wanted to make changes and she was one of those people who would talk against almost all change. She was grouchy and she didn't particularly like the kids. One day this teacher, we will call her Ms P, was teaching a class and a student asked to use the bathroom. She refused his request and he then stood up and urinated into a waste basket.
Whether this actual happened is not really relevant. The student did report to the principal that he had been forced to use a waste basket in Ms P's class to urinate because he could not hold it. The principal could have seen it as a troubled youth acting out in class and tried to deal with the student. He did not. He choose to look at it as a teacher who forced a poor student to use a waste basket rather than allowing him the dignity of a public restroom. The teacher was removed to the rubber room and then reassigned to a new school.
I don't know if Bob destroyed her career, but he tried. The question is was he justified in doing this. This was not the only time I ever saw him do something like this. He understood who the bad teachers were, and he understood who is enemies were and he went after both groups by any means necessary.
While Bob and Rudy were in college learning to be tough vindictive people I was sitting in coffee houses in Ann Arbor discussing "Franny and Zooey" and New Morality. New Morality says that the ends can never justify the means, because the ends and the means are indistinguishable. The problem with the New Morality is that you have to deal with times when you must make hard decisions. Sometimes you are forced to do something you are not proud off, or something that bends ethics.
I think really great leaders feel bad when they push against the ethical boundaries. Lincoln seemed to have suffered greatly when he was president. Robert McNamara has come to publicly regret much of what he did in Vietnam while he was Secretary of Defense. It is hard to imagine Richard Nixon or Rudy Guiliani or Bob Durkin loosing sleep over the moral implications of decisions they made. They were more likely to loose sleep because they felt people were after them or they had lost a battle.
I guess the bottom line is that I feel that affective leaders can be Machiavellian people, but great leaders are people with a strong moral sense who are occasionally willing to bend their morals, but always feel bad about it and who always try to find their way back to a moral center. A good quality for a president.
I see that there are a group of people who started a law suit over the rubber room. The UFT does not support the suit, what a surprise! I think Randy is probably lacking a moral center.