Life in the Schoolhouse

(Excerpt from Swallow Your Ego)

I lived in a school house for the last three years of my time as a fed. Well, it felt like I lived there. I always saw the sun come up, and I generally saw the sun go down. I doubled my Spanish vocabulary at the local taqueria, bought a hand-held vacuum to clean the crumbs off my keyboard, and met some of the best people in the world.

Not that it was a bad place to live. Imagine a really nice campus in the middle of West Virginia coal country mountains, half an hour outside of Washington, DC. and with state of the art gym, shooting range, 0.4 mile running track. Glass windows, fancy cubes, classrooms with smart chalkboards, everything you'd expect in the nicest of modern college campuses. And pretty much everyone who became a supervisor in the agency was required to come through one of our classes.

There were maybe forty instructors who taught leadership for all 60,000 plus Agents, Officers, and the civilian staff. Many of them were Agents and Officers themselves, people who came to the schoolhouse to help build the next generation of leaders and learn a few new ideas before going back out into the field. These folks had great intentions, passion for the classroom, and loved learning new ideas, theories, and approaches. It was a wonderful group of people, particularly for a young guy like me who thought this leadership stuff made a difference.

Plus, there was a certain amount of camaraderie that developed among those who suffered.

For what it’s worth, if I was to do one thing to fix the agency, I’d require that every single person who wanted to be a senior leader spend at least six months teaching. It would make competition for the instructor positions even more competitive, and it would force folks to think about what it means to be a leader on their way to the top. After all, they say the best way to learn something is to teach it.
But nobody asked me. And I think the results speak for themselves. Which is probably why nobody asked me.
Back to my story.