Leadership is important in the success of an organisation. Good leadership fosters an environment of increased productivity, staff retention, employee engagement and positive outcomes. It has also proved integral over recent months as organisations have had to navigate the landscape of living with uncertainty and the unknown.
We have all experienced good and bad leadership in our lives; the key is to learn from those experiences. What worked, what didn’t and why? Understanding the answers to these questions and putting them into practice will have an immense impact on business growth and deliverables.
Most traditional organisational structures have one leader who sits at the top. In an era where many ‘Baby-Boomers’ have recently, or will be moving out of high level leadership positions, the need for investing in future leaders is vital. Investing in training, shadow-programs for prospective leaders and acknowledging the need for the next generation of leaders to be multi-skilled, both from a business acumen and emotional intelligence perspective, has never been so important.
We are going to require people leading corporations, mid-tier companies, schools, universities, financial industries and other businesses as we work towards economic recovery in a post-COVID world. The question to ask at this time is do we have a strong pipeline of leadership talent that meets this criteria and if not what will we, as a society, do about fast tracking identified people into positons of leadership.
There are many definitions of what being a leader means. Overall, being a leader simply means you are willing to teach and support others, be a positive role model and be ready to serve as well as make decisions when necessary and appropriate.
We often hear that some people are ‘born leaders’, I disagree. Not everyone is a ‘born leader’, however, leadership skills such as clear communication, acting with integrity, being a critical thinker, using your common sense, asking questions if you don’t know something, being humble, serving others and being self aware are life skills that can be cultivated.
The development of leadership programs in schools is a positive way to increase personal, academic and wellbeing outcomes for our students. These programs promote self-reflection, acceptance, confidence, discussion, collaboration and helping to empower students to have a ‘voice’ – a student voice.
We start the leadership journey from a young age at St Stephen’s School – giving students opportunities to share their voice, be heard and assist in the direction of their education. This not only creates confidence and engagement among cohorts, but sets students up with leadership skills that are portable and transferable into the world of employment and training.
Our multi-campus, Pre-Kindergarten to Year 12 structure affords St Stephen’s School various leadership opportunities across year groups and campuses. There are the expected roles such as School Captains, House Captains and various subject Co-ordinators. These are positions seen at many schools, however part of our student leadership development program requires these students to be actively involved in both formal and informal activities; all with the intent to promote a leadership mindset.
Our younger students have the opportunity to lead groups in their particular part of the school, such as Eco and Environmental Warriors, Sports Assistants, French and Library Monitors, to name just a few. Students represent their group and take responsibility for their views, activities and place in the School. Starting the sense of pride that comes with leading a group early creates strong foundations for the future as students grow.
From Year 6 our students campaign to lead their Primary School area as Captains where they are in charge of regular meetings to discuss student concerns, organising activities and participating in Service Learning programs that shift the focus to people in need. The focus on others highlights the need for learning about the importance of interpersonal relationships as a leader. Students are learning that leaders need to respect different viewpoints and experiences and seek out ways to harness these differing perspectives to create a unified direction forward.
A great example of leadership in the Primary and Secondary settings is through the School’s partnership with WA Charity Direct (WACD). This partnership began as a pilot program and has evolved into one of St Stephen’s School’s most successful undertakings. It sees students work over a series of months to research, discuss, decide and allocate a substantial donation of money from WACD to a local charity in need. This program has many strengths including understanding the role that philanthropy plays in a community, research, discussion and decision making, all key in effective leadership.
Formal Year 7 and 10 student mentoring is in place where Year 10 students volunteer to help Year 7 students in their transition into Secondary School. Our Secondary Homeroom structure also incorporates students from multiple year levels who mentor each other during a dedicated Homeroom timeslot.
Leadership Breakfasts and Lunches throughout the year see student leaders from various year levels gather together to discuss and problem-solve sample tasks and brainstorm ideas about growth and opportunity within the school. They often hear from community leaders about their own leadership journey, lessons they have learned and how leadership skills assisted them along the way.
Creating the next generation of effective leaders is predicated on what they see modelled by leaders they come into contact with. Whether those leaders are older students, people in the community or school staff. At Stephen’s School, we strive to lead by example and nurture courage in our students to find their inner voice, this is particularly true now more than ever. What our students see today will make them the leaders of tomorrow.