I have the opportunity to teach a unit in Health and Career Education to almost all of the grade 9 students. I focus on what it means to be a “good” leader and global citizen. I spend a class getting to know the students and move into introducing the SMUS definition of leadership and discussing what each element of the definition means. When I get to the Pillars, many of the students have them memorized: SERVICE, RESPECT, HONESTY and COURAGE.

It is always interesting to talk about why each is important to leadership. Some see the clear connection and others haven’t yet given it much thought.

When Kouzes and Posner began to investigate ideas about leaders for their book The Leadership Challenge, they surveyed thousands of individuals world-wide and asked them to select seven qualities from a list of 20 that they “most look for and admire in a leader, someone whose direction they would willingly follow.” Over the last 25 years, regardless of the country, the majority of people believe a leader must be forward-looking, inspiring, competent and honest. Honesty emerges as “the single most important factor in the leader-constituent relationship.”

Honesty is a topic that is frequently discussed and woven into many aspects of SMUS life.

Currently the HONESTY Pillar is in the foyer of the Timmis/Bolton boarding house. It was a prop used in the Bolton weekly house meeting to provide a visual reminder that integrity is critical to the community’s well being.

As a student from the Middle School defined it, “honesty is when someone told others that they like someone when others were saying they didn’t.”

At the Junior School Chapel on Monday, Reverend Fletcher told a story called the Empty Pot.

This is a tale set in China about a wise emperor who is growing old and must choose a successor for his crown. The ruler gives each child a seed and announces that the participant who can grow the most beautiful flower will be made his heir.

Despite his best efforts, Young Ping’s seed will not grow. Ultimately Ping brings the empty pot to the Emperor. Others bring their beautiful flowers. The emperor looks sadly at the beautiful flowers before him. At last he approaches Ping. He asks Ping why his pot is empty. Ping explains that he did his best to grow the flower but it just would not grow. The emperor smiles and declares that he has found his replacement. He reveals that all of the seeds he had given to the children were COOKED and therefore could not grow. The test was not to find the greatest gardener, but a child with the integrity needed to rule wisely in China.

Honesty is strongly tied to values and ethics. People want to follow those who they feel are worthy of their trust. As Kouzes and Pozner explain, “No matter what the setting, everyone wants to be fully confident in their leaders, and to be fully confident they have to believe that their leaders are individuals of strong character and solid integrity.”


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