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What Does It Mean to Be a Leader?

Updated: Jul 27

Webster’s Dictionary defines leadership as “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.”


Author: Ron Wilson, Superintendent of Ionia Public Schools


Leadership expert Warren Bennis once stated, “leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Great leaders possess dazzling social intelligence, a zest for change, and above all, a vision that allows them to set their sights on the things that truly merit attention. Not a bad skill set for the rest of us either.


Nearly two years ago the Ionia Board of Education hired me to serve in a leadership role as Superintendent of Schools. When hired, I pledged that I would work tirelessly to serve as an advocate for our students, be a good steward of the funds and facilities provided by our taxpayers and endeavor to make Ionia Public Schools an exemplary learning community. During the past two years I have worked with our stakeholders to develop a vision and plan for our schools. With your help we have established a strategic plan that defines our core beliefs, identifies what matters and charts our course. The plan articulates why we exist, promotes accountability and encourages us to work collaboratively to move our schools from good to great. Part of making progress is looking at where we have been and where we are going. As a result of shared leadership, together we have:

  • improved student achievement

  • increased student enrollment

  • augmented security systems for improved student safety

  • significantly upgraded our bus fleet

  • secured$ 3.2 million in facility upgrades without increasing taxes

  • trimmed $1.2 million from the budget without eliminating programs·

  • balanced budgets without using fund equity (savings)

  • implemented systemic cost saving efficiencies

  • increased return on investment

  • expanded curriculum and student course offerings

  • restored positive and respectful relationships with labor unions

  • established mutually beneficial partnerships with business community

  • improved customer satisfaction


​I am humbled by your commitment to our children, community and each other. Collectively, our community has demonstrated servant leadership and sacrifice for future generation. These achievements could not have occurred without your help.

During these two years, I have come to acknowledge the importance of data analysis in making leadership decisions. I believe that good leaders develop a routine method of using data to provide feedback on past performance and serve as an organizational compass.


​Think about the use of data in leadership like driving a car.

Your rearview mirror gives you a quick glance at where you have been and looking out your windshield offers formative data about where you are going and obstacles to be navigated. Combine this with your dashboard and you have leading and lagging indicators (data) to help guide the decision-making process. As the driver, you need to collect the data, analyze it, and often are required to respond in milliseconds. In car terms, the average driver becomes a skilled racecar driver when he or she is able to combine data analytics with benchmarking. Needless to say, most people do not have the time or opportunity to attain the skill level needed to compete in NASCAR. That’s where pre-engineered analytics platforms come in. Eidex is a powerful analytics software that provides educators with the tools to easily combine data analytics with benchmarking. In my experience, using Eidex allows me to quickly and confidently collect and analyze data using a benchmarking lens to inform the decision-making process at Ionia Public Schools.

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