What I Learned: Kamela Patton

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Superintendent, Collier County Public Schools. Patton joined the district, which has 7,100 employees, in June 2011 after a 24-year tenure with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Patton holds a Ph.D. from the University of Miami. Before her career in education, she was a personal assistant to Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees.


KEY STEPS FOR CREATING STABILITY IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE

“First, a leader needs to communicate his/her vision to all stakeholders. With a clear vision, you can manage change. My vision has included topics like enhancements with technology; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM); Data Dialogues (meetings); communicating; parents; students—including senior roundtables, being involved in the community, putting in more rigor, academies and creating a pathway for each student. A clear and consistent message helps to guide change. Communication is also key. I’ve watched way too many … people have a great thought but they don’t communicate it. People are going in too many directions. In particular, your expectations [should be] very clear. Otherwise, it’s wasted energy.”

FAVORITE QUOTE

“I am a believer in quotes, and one of my favorites is from Thomas Jefferson: ‘In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock.’ I think often as leaders we ‘swim,’ but you must have the fortitude and courage to stand like a rock when needed.”

BEST WAY TO BUILD TRUST

“I have learned to build trust by being inclusive. For example, I have 16 people on my cabinet to provide me with a variety of opinions, resulting in a ‘collective intelligence’ approach to the direction and challenges we encounter. Again, asking for input and using that input provides the buy-in from my staff. Taking the time to listen, discuss and resolve concerns will result in a better resolution to an issue. It is also important to celebrate successes to help create a positive culture.”

BIGGEST INSPIRATION

“President Lincoln. She has framed art of him in her office. [He showed] perseverance in the face of difficulty. Anything you really need to get done, you can’t just say, ‘Let’s do it one time.’ You have to say, ‘Let’s do it again.’ How can we make this one step easier for you?”

BIGGEST SIDE EFFECT OF BEING IN LEADERSHIP

“Be visible, share your message, talk until you lose your voice. I literally did; I had to have vocal cord surgery.”

BEST LESSONS FROM WORKING FOR THE BEE GEES

“On the world tour, we got little miniagenda books. Every day, we knew what the plan was, what time you had to be on the bus, when do we catch the plane. We had a whole road map. I’ve now developed my own playbook that I keep that goes month by month. When you have a road map, you can get somewhere. When every day you walk in putting out fires, you’re not making progress because you don’t have the plan mapped out.”

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