From the Principal

Learning Leadership

“True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed … Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.”  Sheryl Sandberg

There is no doubt that we need good leaders in our world. At a time when surveys show that many traditional leaders, like political and business leaders, have lost the faith of the public (“Verdicts in the court of public opinion are tipping in the wrong direction for senior leaders of the world’s corporations”), our future depends on the quality of leadership that will be offered by our young people.

So where will our new leaders come from? This is an area where schools can play an important role.

Thankfully, St Columba has developed a leadership program that not only encourages and informs its students but provides support across the range of leadership options available to our students.

Most schools offer some of their students the opportunity to lead, and the best schools offer not only positions of leadership but actively seek to develop the skills of leadership in their students.

As with most “talents” some people find developing leadership skills easier than others: “Recent scientific studies suggest that leadership is 30% genetic and 70% learned. These findings propose that leaders are made not born. Ultimately, the answer is that both are true: a person can be born with natural leadership abilities, and someone can learn how to be a good leader at work.”

That means that leadership skill development should be available to as many students as possible.

What are leadership skills?

Leadership skills are the abilities you need to capture the attention of a group of people, inspire them and persuade them to follow your directions. A skilled leader can make decisions, gain the trust of others and mobilize them to reach shared goals. The following are some examples of leadership skills:

  • Honesty
  • Determination
  • Kindness
  • Communication
  • Optimism
  • Problem-solving
  • Organisation
  • Active-listening

Creating leadership should be about more than who wears the School Captain’s badge. It should be about creating a culture where individuals can and will step up and use their talents when the time is right.

I recently read an article that encapsulated a different way of looking at leadership. It was about a young retail worker confronted by an older member of the public who resented having to wear a mask and decided to make the worker the target of his anger.

“The young woman, summoning more patience and respect for this customer than I felt at the time, calmly explained she also didn’t like wearing a mask. After a long shift it grew hot and rubbed on her skin. She explained she wore the mask because it kept everyone safe, including him. She explained that her grandmother lived at home with her, and she feared bringing COVID-19 home from work. She thanked the customer for helping keep her grandmother safe by wearing his mask as well.”

“In that moment this young woman was a leader. She exemplified what it means to leave a positive legacy through her words and actions. She didn’t have a title or business card and she didn’t have any followers to supervise. She was leading through the impact and influence she had on those around her. She influenced everyone who witnessed that exchange by role-modeling patience and grace. In that moment – and remember, leadership is a series of moments – she left a legacy.” Kiststin Ferguson, SMH, Jan. 30, 2023.

Leadership is not for some elite class only. Everyone wins when we are all able to lead.

Remember, a  leader is anyone who can influence and impact others through their words, actions, and behaviours and sometimes it is the more subtle forms of leadership that have the most impact: “A leader is best when people barely know s/he exists, when his/her work is done, his/her aim fulfilled they will say: “We did it ourselves.’”

Want to share your thoughts on this story, or do you have something you’d like to add? Email me at

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