Parents and students who have been at the School for some time will know that the theme of leadership is woven colourfully and powerfully into the fabric of SMUS, from kindergarten to Grade 12. Parents and students who are new are just on their first date, so to speak, with this idea, but before long they will discover they are in a steady relationship. About eight years ago at SMUS we departed from the customary “cream rises to the top” approach to leadership in schools and embarked on a program that develops the leadership in all students. The goal of our richer, deeper and more comprehensive approach is to create opportunities for all students to develop their capacity to take responsibility for and influence the world around them – eventually, to make the world a better place: leadership.
Staff also work on the same theme. For the past three years the Management Team and a growing group of their colleagues have been engaged in a professional coaching program, based on the practice of leadership espoused by two gurus in the field, Kouzes and Posner. Their ideas are explained and displayed on the website The Leadership Challenge. One of the important bricks in the growing structure of this program is a 360 Review process which all of the Management Team and a few others have participated in for the past two years. In this process, we all identify between twenty and forty colleagues, superiors, parents or Board members who will answer an extensive questionnaire and write some comments that reflect on our leadership as outlined in the five practices of this approach. We do a major debrief in late August, and work with each other on our response to the feedback.
When our School was last accredited by the national organization to which we belong, Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS), one of the observations about what defined our School was the culture of continual improvement. The 360 review is part of that culture. After all, in the words of Socrates, the unexamined life is not worth living.