Can tough love go too far? Balancing task and relationships

In the 1989 movie “Lean on Me” the principal Mr. Clark was given a challenge to turn around a school that most would have said had gone to the dump. It was  the lowest-ranked school in the state of New Jersey. This school was the definition of a problem school. Fights happened daily, drug sales took place in the building some even between teachers and students. The hallways were decorated with graffiti and students skipped class and cursed out teachers with little to no consequence in sight. With such a myriad of problems to face including improving staff morale Mr. Clark came in ruling with an iron fist. His tactics might have been described by some as militant and extreme.

One of the first changes Mr. Clark made was to kick out any students that were aging out, trouble makers and those who had no desire to learn. Parents were in an uproar and demanded that their children be let back in school, but Mr. Clark did not budge. Once he kicked out the “bad seeds” he was able to focus on the students that still had a desire to learn. The teachers were working twice as hard and the students were beginning to whip into shape, but at what cost? Mr. Clark spoke to the teachers just as badly as he spoke to the students. There were no, “thank yous” or “good job” and teachers didn’t feel appreciated. Some teachers quit and others stayed for the sake of the children.

Regardless of these things the school slowly began to change and teachers could see the good that Mr. Clark was doing. Yet and still, the morale in the building was still at an all time low. In the clip I’ve attached we see how. Although Mr.Clark has an amazing ability to lead in the area of task he still falls flat in the area of relationships. How can he balance the two? If being all task-centered is working do we continue to ignore the feelings of the people we need most to succeed? The following clip shows Mr. Clark and one of the teachers in his building in a heated conversation about exactly this. What would you do when reality is put right in front of you? Do you continue to be task driven or do you learn that building positive relationships isn’t always a sign of weakness? Watch and decide…

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