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Helping students become
leaders who make an impact on the world

The Place We Need to Look for Leadership

Now is the time to embrace the need for each and every one of us to step into our leadership potential.

Times of volatility. Times of uncertainty. Times of complexity. Times of ambiguity.

These times require confident and trustworthy leadership. But there is only one place to look for this leadership.

It’s not above us. It’s not below us. It’s not around us.

It’s inside ourselves.

The Responsibility of Leadership

Many of us don’t like to view ourselves as leaders in the traditional sense. We get caught up in looking at positions, titles, and letters after a person’s name on their e-mail signature line or in their social media handle.

I’m just a classroom teacher. The administrators are the leaders in the building.

I’m just a coach. I have an Athletic Director above me in the chain of command.

This is similar to those of us who are parents…but do not embrace our role as a leader of our family.

I was in a small group discussion at a workshop for teachers one time and I made the comment I wanted all of my students to be leaders. Several other educators in the group responded that not all students can be leaders…some are better as followers.

This is one of the great misconceptions about leadership. Leadership is not about position, authority, being in the spotlight, who is the oldest, or who talks the loudest.

Leadership is about responsibility…a responsibility to give the best of ourselves in the service of others.

We need to embrace the responsibility of our leadership, whether that is in our classroom, our locker room, or in our homes.

There is an awesome word that perfectly represents this responsibility of leadership we need to embrace: UBUNTU. This word comes from the Bantu language of South Africa and it means, “I am, because you are.” Ubuntu describes the interconnectedness of all human beings and how our own growth and progression as individuals are linked to the growth and progression of others.

VUCA Environments

This responsibility for leadership is highlighted in our current times, which can be described by the military acronym VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.

Volatile: liable to change rapidly and unpredictably

Uncertain: not able to be relied on; not known or definite

Complex: consisting of many different and connected parts

Ambiguous: unclear or inexact because a choice between alternatives has not been made

While this is definitely the climate of our world in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents are discovering this can accurately describe the environment of educating young people at any time.

We are working with children who are maturing physically, mentally, and emotionally and those changes can come rapidly and unpredictably.

We cannot predict the outcomes of these young people reliably or definitely.

We experience a wide range of student abilities, needs, and personalities which represent different, yet connected, parts in our schools.

We move toward an unclear future because students face a lifetime of choices that are influenced by the foundation of their early years.

So if we are in the middle of a VUCA world, and our educational environment is permanently a VUCA environment, what do we need to do about it?

We need to embrace the mindsets and skills of leadership.

The Benefits of Building Leadership Mindsets and Skills

An old Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

The situation in our world today is either revealing the strength or the weakness of our leadership. If we have not been building our leadership mindsets and skills, it will be discovered. One of the reasons we need to constantly develop our own leadership is because when we reach a crucible moment we sink to the level of our training.

But as the Chinese proverb says, if we find our level of leadership lacking during this crisis, now is the next best time to develop it.

What are the benefits of building our leadership mindsets and skills? No matter where we are on our leadership journey we can always develop more confidence in our leadership, we can grow stronger relationships with our students and athletes, and we can contribute to the legacy of impact we are creating.

You might say, “I don’t really care about creating a legacy of impact. I just want to do my job and live my life. I just want to teach my students. I just want to coach my athletes. I don’t want any responsibility beyond that.”

Ubuntu tells us we all have a responsibility to make an impact on the world. We don’t have to be on the international news. There is no quota we need to meet.

We just have to look inside so we can give the world the gift of our leadership.

And the world needs our leadership now.

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Jon Barth

Jon Barth

Teacher - Coach - Mentor

I love to share stories, tools, and resources to help students become leaders who make a difference in the world by giving away their gifts and abilities.

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