The TASC List: Pulling together

We’ve discussed leaders and leadership before in this column. They are essential ingredients in the fitness and performance of any enterprise. The town of Wilton is no exception. So we must be very careful when choosing elected officials, appointed posts, and every individual who holds a responsible position in school or town operations.
Now is the time for considering the upcoming openings and potential candidates that best match the requirements of those jobs. There have been some very turbulent events in recent months, and crises of both confidence and competence. There have been lapses and miscues, vacuums and voids, and a whole lot of nasty dialogues.
Every voter should look at individual backgrounds and qualifications, apparent strengths and weaknesses, current performance indicators, and future potential. And with good fortune, choose a team that works well together, and promotes at every single opportunity the very best interests of the town.
It’s the working well together that is tough to estimate, and given the great diversity of human instincts and drives, a complex equation even to formulate, let alone solve. There exists an excellent description of this kind of difficulty, the enormous task involved in solution, and the stunning rewards that await the result of doing it well.
I highly recommend a book published in 2013 by Daniel James Brown, The Boys in the Boat, Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (Penguin Books). Of course ,it is first of all about sport, and of rowing.
But it is also against a background of history, the story of the Washington eight-oared varsity crew, and how it came together to surmount challenge, individual differences, the grinding sweat-filled, icy weather practices, and the demands and expectations of the American West as it emerged from the Depression years.
This book is a model for integrating the mind and muscle required for daunting tasks, for finding creative leadership to guide a disparate group toward the pursuit of excellence, and for harnessing passion and determination when the going gets tough. It is also a template for thinking about what it takes to run a town, overcome odds, drive for success, and reach higher levels of achievement.
As Brown explains, “The first task of a coxswain is to steer the shell on a straight course for the duration of a race … From the moment the shell is launched, the coxswain is the captain of the boat. He or she must exert control over everything that goes on in the shell. Good coxes know their oarsmen inside and out — their individual strengths and vulnerabilities — and they know how to get the most out of each man at any given moment. They have the force of character to inspire rowers to dig deeper and try harder, even when all seems lost. … Before a regatta, the cox receives a race plan from the coach, and he or she is responsible for carrying it out faithfully. But in a situation as fluid and dynamic as a crew race, circumstances often change abruptly and race plans must be thrown overboard …”
So much for the first selectman position, where we need such a “quarterback, cheerleader, and coach all in one … inspirational, and in many cases the toughest person in the boat.” Now for the next seat, the stroke. Here’s the place for strength, rhythm, pacing, and setting the tone for oarsmen behind. The perfect position for the chairman of the board of finance, in order to drive the enterprise to sustainable results and operational stability.
Behind that seat would be the chairman of the board of education, sweeping the community ahead with powerful strokes as it develops its most valuable asset, the younger generations to follow. Other oarsmen, acting as the “engine room” of this machine, would be the superintendent of schools, the head of the department of public works (in Wilton, the real work horses), the chiefs of police and fire, and a planner or two.
The entire team requires absolute integrity, discipline, an unmatched work ethic, personal courage, and the willingness to subvert individual interests in favor of unified effort. Do we have such people in Wilton, ready to serve? Can we identify and select them, and put them in their positions? Yes. But we should start the identification process now.
TASC stands for Toward A Stronger Community. Contact:

TASC stands for Toward A Stronger Community. Contact: