Effective Education Leaders Consider the Opportunity Costs

Education leaders know that many situations and decisions in education include risk, and there is an opportunity cost attached to every decision you make. If you make the wrong choice, the opportunity cost can have negative or catastrophic consequences. I first learned about opportunity cost in a college economics course. This simple concept changed the way I viewed and approached life. Before making major decisions, I always consider the opportunity cost, and it hasn’t failed me yet. It can do the same for your personal and professional life.

What is the definition of opportunity cost? An opportunity cost is the consequence of a missed opportunity. This is usually explained in terms of money, but it may also be conveyed in terms of time, or any other resource.

Opportunity cost in action

For instance, on Tuesday morning, you are supposed to attend a retreat with your leadership team to do some strategic planning for the next school year. Since you are the superintendent, you have to be there, as you must lead the meeting. However, the night before, you get a phone call from a wealthy alumnus that has made the decision to donate 5 million dollars to your district, but he can only meet with you tomorrow. You have been in talks with them for months, and now they are finally ready to pull the trigger. What will you do?

Great education leaders understand the consequences of their decisions before making them. The consequences of missing the retreat are negligible when compared to the opportunity cost involved in missing out on a 5 million dollar donation. Your deputy superintendent worked with you hand in hand on the details of the retreat, your vision for next year, and the presentation that you planned to present. They can facilitate the retreat while you meet with the potential donor. You can always schedule a followup meeting to the retreat to finalize things, but this donation is a once in a lifetime thing.

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