Notes toward a definition of leadership

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 1.16.23 PMYesterday PDS faculty received an email from a colleague outlining a plan for the use, care and maintenance of one of our new makerspaces.

She is one of two teachers who have a created a whole scheme to ensure the room works effectively and is accessible to all classes.

It’s a detailed plan with well-considered thinking about key elements of usage: the drop-off area for those donating useable material; shelving for safe keeping of works-in-progress; a designated area for the assorted stuff of making and an area for the high school tech challenge.

They weren’t asked to do this but they saw the need and stepped up to take the lead to get it done.

Other teachers routinely step forward to organize all-school activites, support a student club, provide resources for learning a new skill. To teach is to lead.

Students step forward in official and unofficial capacites to lead teams, organize community-wide initiatives, read to younger children, offer tutoring and academic support. Community membership means to lead.

Last Monday I saw a tenth grade boy stop and pick up a soda can that had been left on the sidewalk outside Gilkeson. It wasn’t his; he was just passing by on the way to class. He did not know he was being observed. He carried it to the recycling bin.

On Thursday a girl – new to the school – sitting down alone at a table with her lunch was called over over to join two other students at their table.

Poughkeepsie Day School recently added two words to its mission that now reads:

 Poughkeepsie Day School develops educated global citizens                  with a passion for learning, leading and living.

So what does it mean to develop a passion for leadership?

To me the examples  above illustrate leadership. And examples like those are never in short supply.  Leaders are not those who sit at the top of a hierarchical organization or those with the personality traits of a stereotypical field marshal.

Like good ideas, leaders are to be found everywhere and cultivating leadership is a key, and intentional, element of our mission as a school. And when we start to look we see examples everywhere and at every age level.

Once we let go of the notion of leadership as command and control and hierarchical power then another definition opens up:

 Definition:  A leader is anyone willing to help, anyone who sees something that needs to change and takes the first steps to create that change and influence that situation.

A leader is someone who understands and accepts a role in creating change.  And keeps doing it. It’s a change process and a leader is a design thinker, someone  who:

  • Seeks a problem, identifies an issue, finds a need, sees something that needs to be improved
  • Acts. Comes up with possible solutions.
  • Tries one out. Learns from the experience
  • Keeps trying

It’s accepting the responsibility to help. And when we do that we find ourselves surrounded by others doing the same.

There have always been people ready to step forward to create positive change and there always will be.

And it is in this spirit that we accept the responsibility to develop those educated global citizens with a passion for leading.

So who are the leaders at PDS? – Don’t think hierarchical structure but rather look to every member of the community.  Our mission is to imbue every student with the creative confidence to tackle problems and believe that breakthrough solutions are possible however many false starts and failures there are along the way.

Poughkeepsie Day School is rich in leaders. And can be even richer.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for sharing – much appreciated!

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