There’s a famous Monty Python scene where the King, speaking to his son, looks upon his kingdom from the windows of a lushly furnished palace room and says with a flourish: “One day, son, all this will be yours!” The son, puzzled, looks at his father and says: “What, the curtains?”
Sometimes the role of leadership is thrust upon us, when it’s the furthest thing from our minds, as perhaps our tendency and preference is to either be part of a team, or to work in isolation. Can you muster up leadership qualities and take a team forward into a brighter future? Can the skills of leadership be learned?
Yes, the strengths of leadership can be cultivated, and with practice, you can become an effective leader. However, if leadership isn’t your top strength – and indeed, if it is one of your lower strengths – it has the potential to have you feel exhausted rather than vitalised. This doesn’t mean to say you cannot be a leader. By bringing your top strengths into the role of leadership, vitality and energy can be restored.
Each year, in schools across the world, leaders are elected by their teachers and peers. With this mantle they represent their team, their class and/or their school in various roles and activities. When a student is honoured with the role as leader, there are many ways they can develop their skills to be t the best leader they can possibly be.
So how do we prepare our school leaders to live up to ours and others’ expectations? What and who do we want them to be, and what do we want them to accomplish? Perhaps we want them to know they have the potential to make the school community more cohesive, or to demonstrate their leadership through initiatives in fund-raising, or through camaraderie and engagement with others – not just their peers, but with all year levels.
There are four aspects to school leadership that I teach young leaders, forming the acronym: LEAD.
L is for LEARN: learning about ourselves and others
School leaders will be more effective and more engaged if they learn what motivates and de-motivates them, what energises them and what it is they stand for – in their school, in their family and in their wider community.
When leaders learn about others, it encourages connection, visibility and a sense of belonging. Every human being has an innate need to belong. Young leaders can be effective in making this so.
E is for EXPRESS: to express our uniqueness and our strengths
Each leader brings their own unique stance on the world, their own skill set and constellation of strengths. When a child feels comfortable expressing who they really are, they not only have a head-start in a world of unknowns, but they also allow others around them to express their own qualities.
When a leader knows and understands their top strengths (their ‘signature’ strengths), they can fully bloom and grow, declaring : “This is who I am at my best.“ When a child engages in their top strengths on a daily basis, they are more engaged, more fulfilled and are better equipped to handle adversity when and if it arises. They are also more attuned to the strengths of others.
A is for APPLY: apply our strengths and skills to the role of leadership
It’s one thing to know the theory and to have good intentions, but if leaders-in-training don’t put what they have learned into practice, nothing changes. Leadership strengths, like any muscle, need exercising to become stronger and to avoid atrophy.
D is for DECIDE: decide to be counted and decide to lead
When students declare to others the kind of leader they want to be, they must then decide to take action and be who they say they are. Perhaps they will decide to be kinder, to be counted, to count others, to be more compassionate, to take risks, to take up a cause… Each moment of each day they make decisions about their behaviour, their reactions and their actions.
School leaders have the potential to bring who they are into the world with pride, confidence and courage. Whether they come to the role self-appointed or as a vote of confidence from others, they can learn how to express who they are, apply their knowledge and decide to be counted as a leader.
After all, one day, all this will be theirs.