Retired teacher exudes special kind of leadership

Martha Carpenter Scroggs

On May 22, more than 400 people saluted someone who has given 55 years of dedicated service to one job in one school.


That someone is Martha Carpenter Scroggs. She is an exquisite example of a "Blue leader." We can all learn so much from her and the example she has set.

OK, so what is a Blue leader, and what can we learn from Martha?

There is a fascinating psychological test -- the Strength Deployment Inventory, or SDI -- that measures individuals carefully and places them into four categories: Red, Green and Blue leaders; and leaders who are "hubs."

Red leaders are hard-working, decisive, goal-setting, mission-oriented people. They often are found in charge of large organizations. The best Red leaders are ones who value criticism and understand that your loyalty to an organization is even more important than loyalty to your boss.

Green leaders are analytical people who make decisions based on examining carefully lots of information and data. These leaders tend to make good decisions because they ensure that they have examined all options and have weighed the pros and cons of each option carefully.

BLUE LEADERS are caring, altruistic individuals who are loved by their colleagues. They are the ones who are the first to take a pay cut, the last to stand in the buffet line and the first to charge the enemy in a combat situation. They care deeply for others and are reluctant to accept praise for their altruism.

Medal of Honor recipients and other heroic combat leaders fit nicely in this category. Although they are not as common as Red and Green leaders, Blue leaders are often profoundly successful.

Hubs are leaders who do not have a strong proclivity in any one area. Their great strength is flexibility. However, they tend to be indecisive and are sometimes called wishy-washy by their subordinates.

What can each of us learn from Blue leader Martha Carpenter Scroggs?

First, she loves her 3- and 4-year-old students, and she shows that love to every student every day. Her consistency and persistence in this area is palpable.

Second, she feels strongly that all people, especially young children, need to have rules that they can learn, understand and follow.

Third, they need to understand that telling the truth at all times and in all situations is essential to a productive life. When she finds a child telling a fib, she takes quick, corrective action.

Fourth, she builds self-confidence in each student by giving lots of praise -- but always praise that is justified.

Five, she learns from her students, who every day demonstrate the wonder of innocence and curiosity.

SIX, SHE IS VERY honest and straightforward with each parent, and gives sound advice on how to enhance character development.

Seven, she speaks truth to power and is committed to assisting her bosses in becoming leaders.

At the retirement ceremony for Martha, the headmaster at the Episcopal Day School, Ned Murray, told some wonderful stories about Martha. When he first arrived nine years earlier to become the headmaster, Murray sat down with Martha, who politely gave him suggestions on how to do his job. She had seen previous headmasters make serious mistakes, and she wanted to help Ned, especially in his first few months on the job.

With a huge smile on his face, Murray then told the audience of Martha visiting with him less than a week before she retired, where Martha once again told him what he should do.

In retirement, Martha Scroggs will not fade away. For the next three years she will serve on the vestry of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in downtown Augusta. As a decisive leader, she will help St. Paul's face up to some difficult decisions in the months and years ahead.

All of the thousands of people who respect and love Augusta's greatest blue leader know that she will make many contributions to her church and our community in the decades ahead.

(The writer -- a retired U.S. Air Force major general -- is the author of Rules and Tools for Leaders A discussion of the SDI test and Martha Scroggs is in Chapter 14 of that book. His wife, Connor, went to kindergarten with Martha. They have been dear friends ever since.).

Festivities mark end of 55-year career