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When Service Equals Success

Interview with Emmy Beeson, Superintendent, Tolles Career & Technical Center

Having spent my entire life looking up to this fierce female, it is only fitting that Emmy Beeson is next to be featured as an inspirational leader to the WeInspireWe community. Emmy is a tenured professional with over 20 years of education and leadership experience. Making her way up the ranks from a history teacher to administration as a curriculum director and is now the Superintendent at Tolles Career & Technical Center just north of Columbus, Ohio.

Individuals are at the Heart of it All

When reflecting back on her career and the steps to her leadership success, Emmy believes that the best way to lead is to serve – and demonstrates that in her actions every day. From highly collaborative staff meetings to deep engagement with the community in developing the new Ridgemont Local School District building, Emmy knows that there is no activity too big or too small to bring people together.

​She encourages open communication, asks her team to challenge her, to challenge status quo and to bring inspiring and original thoughts to the table. She believes that together, they “make something beautiful and make their corner of the world better than it was before”.

“Leading is about me slowing down and really knowing people instead of just getting things done. What is it that we want for our school district? Who is it that we want to be? The people who are in the district and work with and teach the kids every day, the people who drive the bus, the people who serve the meals, the moms, the dads, the grandmas, the grandpas, they are the experts and it is my job to know them.”

Paying it Forward

Emmy not only applies this servant leadership philosophy to the staff of her entire school district, but has made it a habit to focus on identifying key individuals who have great potential, and will work tirelessly – both in and outside of her daily duties – to mentor, inspire, support and encourage their growth and development. For Emmy, it’s not just about doing what is required; it’s an unquenchable passion to be able to support excellence around her. “So I think it is my job to find people who demonstrate those leadership skills or have potential leadership skills and help them get into it.” And she can cite countless examples of individuals she has worked with in the past to support this way – including her current efforts with an individual in her office who is being groomed to be able to eventually replace Emmy’s role, demonstrating living a truly selfless leadership style.

And Acting with Confidence

But her style is not all soft and unifying – when she has to, she will move swiftly to make decisions, protect the integrity of the district and the children – and will make no apologies about it. And here is where the rub usually comes in for women. When this level of decisiveness or confidence comes into play, women are often seen as intimidating or aggressive – by both men and women alike. “I feel like it is within the rules and within the norm of expectations to see those qualities with strong men and that feels normal. But when some of those same characteristics come from females, people don’t know what to do with that. It is not that they disrespect it, it’s not that they are angry about it, they just don’t know how to respond to it because they haven’t had a ton of experience with it.” And while gracious in that response, she works diplomatically to immediately set the stage with her teams to make sure that while she appreciates that perception can be reality, her leadership reality is that she will operate in a transparent and collaborative manner and expects the rest to follow.

Which this writer believes that the more women stand up and set that leadership reality – the more that intimidation factor is lessened and the better the world becomes.

Bringing it Back to the Individuals

And speaking of making the world a better place, “I know this sounds so simple and probably uninspiring but I think that the biggest thing that gets you the farthest in leadership and the thing that cuts you off at the knees is this – treat other people the way you want to be treated. Whether you are in education or you are in other leadership roles, just remember you are not talking to pawns. You are talking to people. We are all human beings. When you are there and you treat people the way you wanted to be treated, you will be successful.”

Simply put – lead with openness, put others front and center, stand up when you need to, and success will follow.

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