Leadership is a fascinating concept. We hear of born leaders and natural leaders, but I believe leadership can be learned and developed throughout our entire lives.
Some years ago I completed a Masters in Educational Leadership. I still remember the first lecture of the course. The unit was called “What is Leadership?” and I turned up quite excited about meeting a Professor from the University of Melbourne, getting the definition, learning it and getting ready to put it into practice. I thought that would be 5 minutes of my life well spent. I suspect my mathematical brain was looking for the formula.
Imagine my surprise when this esteemed leader in education started with “I have no idea what the definition of leadership is. It is an impossible question. There are around 10 000 definitions on Google and I don’t like any of them. Please get into a group and write down your definition and get ready to share it with the class.”
So 5 minutes quickly turned into a semester of reading, researching, discussing and reflecting. I discovered that whilst there was no single definition of leadership, there were many well-researched types and styles of leadership. Instructional, Transformational, Authoritarian, Dictatorial, Servant. There are some well documented traits of leadership. Leaders may be Courageous, Visionary, Wise, Charismatic, Democratic, Collaborative, committed, Passionate, Empowering, have strong Emotional Intelligence, a growth mindset… the list goes on.
What I do know is that all leaders are different and probably unique. They have different personality traits and values – different types of motivation and different goals. So in the end choosing to develop your leadership, and being the best leader you can be, is a personal choice for us all. There is no universal definition or answer. I mean look at your 20 chosen prefects. They probably have some things in common – it would be fascinating to find out what they are – but they are all different.
I like to solve the leadership puzzle like this. Think of a leader who has had a positive influence and analyse what they did. What was their style, what were their effective traits, how did they get the job done? Then think “what can I adopt and use that will suit my beliefs and personality.” Don’t try and be a clone of your favourite leader – but build your own leadership persona. This is why I think positive role models and mentors are so important.
My favourite definition of leadership is “having a worthy vision and successfully encouraging others to come with you to help turn that vision into an effective reality” . This covers off the creativity of having a good idea, forming and working collaboratively in teams, and most importantly – delivering and hopefully leaving a legacy.
Again: “having a worthy vision and successfully encouraging others to come with you to help turn that vision into an effective reality”
But in reality leadership is a lot more than a definition. For our prefects of 2019 it is a privilege and it carries clear responsibility. It is much more than a title or a badge and while it can be rewarding and satisfying – it isn’t all smooth sailing. Leadership can have moments that are lonely, challenging, time-consuming, filled with failure, and difficult conversations and gut-wrenching decisions.
So at this point I take off my hat to the prefects of 2019. They have put themselves out there to be your leaders. They have been through a rigorous process to get here and we are convinced that they have what it takes to make a difference, to leave a legacy and to help make Westbourne the best place it can be.
I also especially acknowledge all those who put their hands up to be leaders in 2019, but didn’t quite get there. This shows courage, determination and preparedness to take a risk. It is invaluable in developing resilience. The ability to bounce back from disappointment, to learn about yourself, to adapt and to recharge and to try again. To keep moving outside your comfort zone into the courage zone where the great things happen. If you are in that category then well done. Show the character to now support these leaders AND continue to be a leader regardless.
To the majority of Year 12 students for 2019 – those who didn’t apply for one of these leadership positions. In a great school like ours we are often measured by how much you choose to lead. Lead yourself, be part of the team that achieves the worthy vision, get involved, support younger students, do what is right, be upstanders, look after each other – and have a great year as a cohort.
But this special assembly focusses on our new Prefects. Today they formally express their desire to lead and serve you, the students of Westbourne.
Their leadership will significantly enhance our community and develop our values of scholarship, community, creativity and courage.