Modeling Leadership

I was fortunate this week as an education leader: I spent two full days working with students. Our graduating students are working hard on their Senior Projects, all of which are interesting and impactful. I was asked to help with one senior’s project in particular; training a cadre of younger students to take over running the A/V booth in our performance theater.

Let’s get this straight – I know about 10 buttons to work the A/V booth. This was not my training. I was there to assist, supervise and observe. Our senior student (assisted by his good friend and fellow Class of 2022 member) designed a full two-day course to teach mentees all they would need to know as production assistants. He developed a schedule, a syllabus and training materials. He provided information, demonstrations and hands-on opportunities for students to learn. Finally, he stepped back and gave them time to use the equipment in a supportive environment.

Students eating lunch together on the stage with colorful lighting during a break.
Lunch as a group

For hours, I worked on my laptop with an eye and ear tuned into their work. I was impressed by the commitment to excellence, the level of respect and the variety of lessons taught. I learned a WHOLE lot more about our A/V capabilities!

After lunch on Day 2, students started working together to run “productions” on the stage. At times the auditorium was filled with the sounds of music. At other times, the theater was so dark, I could only see my computer screen. As students grew in their knowledge and comfort level, I started to see their skills gel and the theater came to life.

Student singing on the stage while lights and smoke fill the air.

At the same time, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Singing along from my seat, tapping my feet, smiling as students got up, sang and danced to give those in the booth something to track.

Soon… I was starting to think I wanted to get up and sing. It would not be the first time I’ve wished to do something similar. I love to sing. I LOVE LOVE to sing. However? I am not a singer. Since my strokes? I am REALLY not a singer. I usually chicken out and just enjoy the show, always wishing later that I at least spoke up. Today, I went up to the booth and asked the kids if I could sing. After their surprised reaction, they gave me a mic, helped me find the track I wanted and I headed to the stage.

I’m sharing this video with you… NOT because I’m awaiting a record deal. I am sharing because of how it models vulnerability, community building, risk-taking and having fun with students. In my role, I have limited ways to build relationships with our students. During these two days, I observed them coming out of their shell, creating a small community, taking risks and having lots of fun together while LEARNING. I wanted to be part of the experience!

I’ve decided to share the experience here for many reasons… Leaders need to find ways to spend quality time with those whom they serve. Find ways to have fun. Find ways to model vulnerability and facing fears. Laugh at yourself; don’t just TELL students everyone makes mistakes. SHOW them.

It makes me feel wicked uncomfortable and super proud to watch this video. I sound WAY better inside my head. I keep up with the rhythm singing along from my seat. I remember EVERY single word when singing in my car. I felt as silly and awkward and self-conscious as I look on stage. But listen to and watch the students in this video. Teaching and learning is going on all around me, without my having to teach a thing. In the end, this experience wasn’t about me. It was about building the capacity of students.

I think that’s magical.

What are you teaching your students, or your staff, when you aren’t teaching at all?


Want to see part of the song we did together after this?


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  1. Suzy, I LOVE this for a number of reasons:
    – you’re modeling good behavior in your position of “authority.”
    – this is an excellent example of the deep value of “school life” outside of the classroom.
    – your seniors now have an excellent and documented example of their leadership. Not only can they say they understand the value of succession planning, designing training plans, creating practical experiences etc, but now they can also point to a documented example of it online. And it’s not sports 🙂

    Finally, I think that last point is 2-fold… YOU as a leader took the time not just to enable the experience, but to write this post here validating the excellent work your seniors have done.
    One of my favorite quotes about leadership is from Max DePree
    “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.”

    You’ve just said “thank you” in a very meaningful way!