Choose To Lead


This book will give you and your leadership team some guideposts, some practical tips, and some takeaways on how to think about leadership. It is not meant to be prescriptive; leadership is much too fluid to be formulaic.

You Need Tools, Not Rules.

This book is written for up-and-coming school leaders, trustees, or anyone interested in education. This guide will help you understand and appreciate all the angles of running a school as seen through the eyes of a successful school head.

For heads of school, presidents, principals, administrators, teachers, trustees, and those looking to move into educational leadership.

This book can help trustees understand better the position of the head of school. If you’ve been a head for a while, this book might be a good opportunity to step back and reflect. Finally, while this book focuses on leadership in the nonpublic setting—the setting for James Kubacki's experiences—many of the lessons apply to all types and levels of schools and even education itself.


Leadership is always evolving, in large part because we are informed by our experiences as we move through life. Leadership is not easy; then again, it is never boring. Leadership is clearly challenging, probably now more than ever. Certainly, it is more complex than it used to be, just as the lives of our students are more complex. Nothing will give you a more complete sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, however, than seeing young men and women become fully functioning and engaged adults, true leaders in their own unique ways.

What we do as educational leaders matters.

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Personal Leadership

Develop your personal belief system

Visionary Leadership

Develop a personal visionary mindset

Organizational Leadership

Focus on the big picture

Operational Leadership

The nuts and bolts of execution

About The Book

Our job collectively is to transform the lives of our students.

I feel strongly that school leadership is as important as ever to the future of our country. Schools must grow and transform in order to meet the needs and challenges of each successive generation. We will always need educators, strong leaders, to instruct our youth, embrace leadership and model it for our students who will develop into our future leaders.

Choose to Lead: A Practical Guide for Educational Leadership is drawn from my years of experience as a secondary school head, principal, college associate dean of admission and college football coach. I have enjoyed helping schools achieve excellence. I was fortunate to play a leading role in the design and building of an $88 million 160,000 square foot campus and the creation of a middle school for Eastside Catholic School.

This book is written for up and coming school leaders, trustees or anyone interested in education. I hope this guide will help you understand and appreciate all the angles of running a school as seen through the eyes of a successful school head.

As I have learned from educators far and wide over the course of my career, I began to think about how I might give something back. Several years ago, I began jotting down notes on my experiences in the trenches (as it were). Could I extract meaning from those experiences and pass it along to emerging leaders? It is my hope that this book will start a conversation and serve as food for reflection.

As I look at my own growth, I can see some things with clarity that I would not have seen at a younger age. But I could easily serve another forty years and never stop learning. I learn every day. I make mistakes every day. I hope you enjoy the book, find it useful and instructive and get involved to ensure that the education of our youth remains a critical priority in our country!

James Kubacki - Author

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About The Author

Throughout my life I’ve received opportunities and support for which I am grateful. I will forever appreciate the importance of educating and leading young people toward their goals. I hope the book is a useful resource for your own leadership pursuits.

I was raised in a hardworking, blue-collar family outside of Cleveland, Ohio. I am the fourth of seven children. Neither of my parents finished high school. As an introvert growing up in a large family with some strong personalities, I learned to listen, a skill that has served me well in my leadership roles. Our family owned the Pink Elephant Tavern in Westlake. Our house was attached to the tavern, and I saw the hours my parents put in: my mom opened at 7:00 am, and my dad closed at 1:00 am. There were years when the tavern was closed only on Christmas and Easter. I saw firsthand what sacrifice looked like. Life centered around family, school, friends, and sports.

I am a graduate of St. Ignatius High School, Harvard University, with a degree in history, and the Fordham Graduate School of Education, with a master’s degree in Counseling and Personnel Services.

My over forty years of experience have included coaching football at the college level – at Harvard and Fordham; as an Associate Dean of Admission at Princeton; as the principal at St. Edward High School and twenty-one years as president at two schools – Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish, Washington and St. Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio.

I’ve found that being a quarterback and then a coach at the college level contributed a lot to my development. Coaches and quarterbacks call the plays and build teams. I’ve always loved preparing for a game by watching film of our opponent and calling the plays—my personal chess match—on game day. In other words, I like to have the responsibility, the ball in my hands. I was fortunate to be the Harvard quarterback for two years as our team became the first outright Harvard Ivy League champion. I was honored to be voted the Crocker Award (MVP) by my teammates and was inducted into the Harvard Athletic Hall of Fame.

Jim Kubacki

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