Watching our students grow, learn so much through their school years and shape up into wonderful human beings is the best reward, we as educators get to experience for being part of their education journey. As they get older, it’s impressive to see them taking on leadership roles and speak with confidence in front of crowds. A skill that people work years to perfect, and one that I wish I had in high school.
I strongly believe that offering leadership opportunities for our students/children is very important and we are lucky to be part of EARJ where our students have the chance to lead, create or join clubs, councils, and sports where they can learn leadership skills.
On February 12th, twenty-four Panthers attended the GTAD Virtual Student Athlete Leadership Conference. More than 100 international schools participated, either at home or at school, depending on what time it was on their side of the world. In Rio, it started at 4:45 am.
Dr. Greg Dale, Director of Sport Psychology and Leadership Program for Athletics at Duke University, talked to our students about what it means to be a leader and what it takes for people to follow them. Although his stories and videos were inspiring, what stood out the most was that he made our students think about what they could do in their teams and communities as leaders.
At the beginning of his presentation, Greg asked everyone: “What is your leadership brand?”. The question made me ask myself about what my personal brand was and what are the things I do that make me worth following or at least listened to?
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, once said: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. This made us think even more. What are our values? What do we stand for? What do our student’s peers say about them when they are not in the room? What type of impact do they have in their clubs or teams?
I remember talking to my teams when athletics and competitions were normal. I would always speak about the meaning of being part of a team, such as: how everyone counts on each other, how individual actions could affect the whole team, and even how good communication within the team can make huge differences. However, one of the most important variables when it comes to the success of a group is simply mindfulness. Such as coaches being mindful of athletes’ feelings, or athletes being mindful of how their poor choices could affect their teams.
Dr. Greg Dale described what were the three important things that great leaders do. They…
- Distinguish themselves: They go the extra mile and pass the line. They don’t cut corners and go beyond them, willing to do things that others aren’t, they make others notice when something is wrong and take their team with them through the right way. At times, these leaders will have to take initiative and make some tough choices, such as ones that their team and/or friends will disagree with. Furthermore, this type of behavior and self-will could lead their peers to think a little harder and make the right choices.
- Are Vocal Leaders: They are leaders that are willing to challenge their teams. They are great communicators but without undermining others. They push their teams to be better, challenging and encouraging them, and making them believe they can do it. They build a culture in their teams where people can hold each other accountable. Do you remember the confrontation between the two captains in the movie “Remembering the Titans?” In that scene, you can clearly see that Attitude Reflects Leadership. The leader’s behavior must always reflect the right attitude so his/her team believes in him/her.
- Lead by example: They serve others, willing to do the dirty work, and help in any way they can, like assisting their teacher or worker cleaning after class or practice. They are resilient in tough times and keep their teams in a good place. These leaders embrace pressure and pressure is part of trying to be great because it is filled with expectations, challenges, and consequences. They make the right choices, so those drinking alcohol and doing drugs do not fit here as leaders. Bad choices reflect on their attitude and demeanor.
In conclusion, it is important to know that:
- Being a good leader takes a lot of courage and it’s not always easy.
- Requires a good set of values and that we stick to them.
- We need to be proactive in developing our own leadership brand because it’s a clear representation of our attitude and the things we do.
- At moments, we need to separate ourselves from the choices that the crowd makes.
- It’s important to create a great team culture where we can all hold each other accountable.
As their teachers and parents, there are important questions I feel we need to ask ourselves:
- Are we good leaders ourselves, good role models, preparing and guiding our students and children for the future and its challenges? Are we encouraging them to face these, without paving the way, so they can also learn from failure?
- What are we doing to help them build a good set of values that they will live through and make them great leaders in the future? And, is empathy one of them? A very important one in the times we are living.
- Are we teaching them what the right priorities are in life and celebrating their good choices? What are we doing on a daily basis to teach them that it’s okay to be different and want to go to school, for example?
The conference was an amazing and a life-changing experience for our EARJ student athletes. Listening to great keynote speakers and then hearing about what their peers are doing in other places in the world gave them a boost of energy and hope they could be back on the field or courts soon. Our students were very inspired by all and here is great feedback they allowed me to share with you. It meant very much to me and I’m sure you will enjoy reading it too.
Athletics and activities are the heart and soul of every school, and sports are a great starting point on our students’ and childrens’ leadership journey. They teach us lifelong lessons. If we all do our job and work together as a community and make the right choices outside school, we will see our Panthers’ in action soon. Remember, our attitudes reflect on us and especially on our kids. Let’s all be great leaders in their journeys too.
Athletics & Activities Director