Many people believe that leadership is all about leading from the front: being in charge and creating a demanding presence that people are excited to follow. At St. Margaret’s, however, we are more interested in shifting that perspective to include the impact you can have being part of a team, being more concerned about service than status, and, finally, demonstrating leadership through your contributions rather than the title you own. Too often, we define leadership as a person with a set of followers rather than a person who leads with ideas—who through their personal actions becomes a role model for others that they may not even know! Hence, it is important to recognize those quiet ambassadors who believe that how you live, learn, and model positive attributes can lead to stronger relationships, higher engagement, increased commitment, and extraordinary innovation.
Developing leadership capacity and honing those skills that build a cohesive team, are essential skills we teach at St. Margaret’s. We emphasize the importance of being a contributing member of a group where people exercise their areas of expertise or strength and work cooperatively, and collaboratively, to seek solutions for the collective good. The ability to anticipate and identify individual strengths and weaknesses is a skill that is definitely part of strong leadership and something that is nurtured and celebrated at SMS. We talk a lot to our girls about the fact that leadership begins from within—knowing who you are, how you can contribute, and how you can make a difference.
Interestingly, one of the biggest challenges of leadership from within is learning how to contribute when you are not in charge and ensuring that your voice, and the voice of other “followers,” is still reflected in the decision-making process. As stated by Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, “quiet leaders prefer listening to speaking; [they are people] who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who are more comfortable working on their own or within a small group; and who strive for fellowship rather than formal leadership roles.” As such, we need to recognize the virtues of the listeners and the thinkers (the quiet leaders) along with the virtues of those action oriented individuals or doers (the extroverted leaders). Leadership development is really about making individuals comfortable or aware of how to lead through their own actions, values, and beliefs—irrespective of whether they are a formal leader, an influencer, a quiet ambassador, or even a follower. We have to help our girls find the confidence to achieve their goals while also being mindful of how their actions impact others, both positively and negatively.
Last week, we had the privilege of welcoming Fred Fox (Terry Fox’s older brother and provincial Director of the Terry Fox Foundation in BC) to talk to our younger students. Fred shared his memories of growing up with Terry and his brother’s journey during the 1980 Marathon of Hope. Fred reminded us that Terry really was an ordinary kid who did not intentionally strive to be a leader or a hero. He had a simple dream—fuelled by courage, determination, humility, and humanity—to raise money for cancer research and increase community awareness. I do not think Terry could have imagined the impact his actions would have on future generations. He has left that legacy for others to carry on, reminding us that leading from the heart is the greatest form of leadership that exists.
“The next time you see a person with a composed face and a soft voice, remember that inside her mind she might be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat. She might, that is, be deploying the powers of quiet.” -Susan Cain
“Dreams are made possible if you try.”
Cain, Susan. “Not Leadership Material? Good. The World Needs Followers.” The New York Times. April 12, 2017 https://nyti.ms/2mZTetL
Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. 2012.
Terry Fox: Running to the Heart of Canada. A travelling exhibition produced by the Canadian Museum of History, in partnership with the Terry Fox Centre. On display at the Royal BC Museum, Victoria, BC, from April 12, 2017—October 1, 2017.