7 Questions with Mickey Addison
Name: Mickey Addison
Current title: Author & Consultant
Current organisation: Lead High Performance
Mickey is an expert in leadership and organizational change. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. Mickey now works with clients around the country to improve performance and help organizational transformation. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC. Mickey is the author of eight books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.
1. What have you found most challenging as a Christian school leader?
The most challenging thing about working with Christian youth today is giving them a sense of perspective of where they are in relation to the history of the Church, and helping them understand that there are core truths to the Christian faith that must be lived out in their lives concretely.
Our society today is awash in the urgency of the "now" which dilutes our youth's perspective. Without a sense of perspective, it's hard for anyone -but especially young people - to see how Christians have faced adversity in the past. When everything is "now" without context, small problems become crises and crises become catastrophes. That magnification of problems can give young people a sense of hopelessness or even nihilism. By studying the lives of the saints who have gone before since the Apostles, and knowing the history of the Church throughout history, warts and all, people can see how God has walked with us during our trials.
The second issue is relativism, and it's related to the first. Our culture is awash in relativism - and young people have to learn how to make moral judgements based on timeless truths. They have to learn that making judgments for themselves and about other's behavior is not the same as judging others' souls. As the old saying goes, "The best part of not being God, is not having to do His job!" We are called to "Love one another", and that requires courage and truth. That said, there are choices we all have to make, and those must make those decisions as best we can to follow our Lord as closely as we can, and trust His mercy when we fall short.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I am a former military officer, so I still rise early, spend a few moments in prayer and reflection, and start my day. Each day varies depending on what I'm doing, but I try to make time for work, exercise, and prayer. In the past I was lucky enough to attend Holy Mass almost daily, but now that's very difficult. I also do my best to turn off the screens at some point. As a consultant and author, I spend a lot of my time online or working on a screen. It's important to disconnect as often as I can!
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The more senior one becomes, the more important it is to be kind. I try to remember what it felt like to be young and think I know more than I do, then I channel that into gentle correction and open ended questions. Us more senior leaders have to grow and develop those who will replace us.
4. What's one book apart from the Bible that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Choosing a single book is very hard because there are many stories, psalms, and passages that are meaningful. If I have to choose only one, it would probably be the Gospel of St Luke.
Two stories stick out - the Annunciation and the Centurion. In both of those stories, both the Blessed Virgin and the Centurion expressed their trust in God, and then followed through with their promises. They were both humble in their acceptance of God's Word, and in their resolve to do as He asked them. I believe humility in leaders is essential. Leadership is primarily an act of service. When we remain humble, when we serve others, then we can inspire others to be their best and do their best.
5. How do you find and keep great Christian teachers?
Short answer: we keep great teachers by respecting them, supporting them, and being attentive to their faith lives. Most people get into teaching because they want "their" kids to learn and grow. They want to love their students. The administration has to be in the business of making teachers successful: get them the resources they need, listen to them when they complain or have ideas, and remember to be attentive to their needs as people. Nurture their faith lives, give them time and space to recharge when necessary, and go the extra mile to ensure you know you genuinely care about them.
6. What's most important as a Christian school leader for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
The most important thing a school leader must do to develop a culture of well-being is model the behavior themselves! Never ask any teacher to do something you're unwilling to do yourself.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a Christian school leader so far?
My mother was a teacher in my school, and was my 6th grade teacher. She taught at Holy Family from her early 20s until she passed in 1991. She was passionate about helping her students see the glory of the Christian faith - and she modeled that for her students. When she took us to Mass (we went once during the week), she made sure we understood what was going on. In prayer, she was reverent.
Our 6th grade religion curriculum was Bible History that she taught out of an OLD textbook. But wow - learning historical context for Old Testament stories, understanding that these stories happened to real people in real places was transformative for our faith!