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What Leadership Means to Me, by Richard Feller

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Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a King. He was a benevolent King who ruled his kingdom with kindness….or…On the hardened battlefield one man emerges beyond compare, he is loved by his company and feared by his enemy…

We have all heard these introductions to the familiar stories that purport leadership as some grand achievement that only certain people can be born into, rise up to, or achieve by whatever means are necessary. I once believed that getting to the “top” or being the “best” was leadership; I was most certainly wrong!!

Over the years our children/students have taught me a much greater, more authentic meaning for the word leadership.  It’s about service! It’s about caring enough for others to champion them to achieve their potential without the need for awards or accolades. I have often watched many students stop what they were doing on the playground to help a fellow student get up to the top of the monkey bars. I have watched many students explain a concept that one of their peers may not have understood. I have watched many students give up their favourite treat to someone who didn’t have one. While these acts may seem small, we only need to think of the potentials they inspire.

When I think of what Leadership means to me, I am compelled to think of those who have inspired me on my journey. I am reminded of the kind of character traits that these individuals share and the principle-centered lives they have lived. I think about how these individuals have inspired me to want to do better, to be better, and to do the same for those I serve.

I believe that individually and collectively we have an opportunity to change someone’s trajectory, with every interaction. I think this happens when the person we are interacting with feels valued, feels cared for, and knows that we are with them, even if it’s just in that one moment. This is true leadership!

I believe that everyone can be a leader, maybe not in the traditional sense, but with the intent to make the world we live in a better place. To do this we need to have a mindset that leads us to choose kindness, to choose humility, and for this to be even more powerful, to choose to live with integrity.

I remember at one point in my life, I felt that it was my job, or my right as a leader to “correct” whenever there was an opportunity; that my value and worth was defined by the intellectual pursuit of being “right” and having all the answers. This type of thinking also found its way into my personal life, until I was asked a question by someone who was much smarter. They asked, “Is it more important to be kind or to be right”? This has been one of the most profound questions that has influenced the way I think. Always having to be “right” can damage the spirit of others and really is a false boost to one’s own spirit. Moving away from ego (how everything affects me) to the service of others is a daily challenge but it is the only way we can inspire others. 

When I think of what Leadership means to me, I think of the following quote by Dr. Stephen R. Covey,

“Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.”                                                                                    

-Richard Feller, Associate Superintendent, Learning Services


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