This week the newspaper described two varieties of economic forward guidance: Delphic and Odyssean. Delphic is named after the ambiguous Greek oracle, Delphi. Intentions are announced and repeated until new data alters the intent. Odyssean recalls the Greek hero Odysseus tying his hands to the mast as they passed the Sirens. He heard the music and safeguarded himself against its temptation. One leadership path sticks to the plan regardless and the other alters course as new information arrives.
The distinction reminds me of the challenge school heads face most days. Schools are not dissimilar to the Fed’s challenge of influencing the economy. There are limited tools at a school head’s disposal to influence major forces, which for the most part are uncontrollable. The direct connection is that the economy impacts a school’s two engines of propulsion – Advancement and Enrollment.
Delphic and Odyssean leadership represent extremes. One allows for course correction early and often. The other never adjusts the course, avoiding temptation at all costs. What do you remember about the Heads of School you admire? Were they Delphic or Odyssean? Did they lead with a vague description of an intent that you knew would change…at some point? Or did they make plans and stick to them no matter what, resisting temptation?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.