“There’s No Such Thing as a Born Leader”

You’ve likely heard someone proudly say, “I’m a born leader!” Or perhaps (on the other end of the spectrum): “I’m really not a leader.” The problem with both of those statements is neither of them is true.

smus-leadership-js-01At St. Michaels University School, we believe the idea of the born leader is a myth. There’s no such thing as someone born prepared to be a leader. What we do believe is everyone has the potential to be a leader.

A leader is like being a basketball player. Being good requires a set of skills that nobody is born with. But like learning how to play a sport, leadership skills can be mastered through practice and building confidence.

“Every student is a leader”

“More than anything, our school is in the business of preparing the leaders of tomorrow. There’s no such thing as a born leader, so it’s our job to help them develop those skills,” says Mr. Mathew Geddes, director of leadership development at SMUS. “We want our students to be able to handle the what the world throws at them.”

smus-leadership-ms-01We believe every student – K-12 – is a leader. That’s why we talk with students as young as Kindergarten about leadership and what it means to be a leader.

“A leader isn’t always the one up in front of the group or the one with the loudest voice. A leader is someone who can observe a situation, understand it, make a decision and act in a way that helps create a positive outcome,” Mathew says.

School Prefects

The culmination of the leadership program at SMUS is the chance to be a school prefect. A prefect is a student in Grade 12 elected by their peers to not only be a role model, but to also work directly with staff to make positive impacts on the school community.

Even at a school where leadership development is embedded in everything we do, the shift from Grade 11 student to Grade 12 prefect is significant. But there are ways we help hone in on and develop the skills students need.

It may not appear as such, but navigating a low ropes obstacle course is the perfect situation to throw at a school prefect. This was one of the challenges 42 students had to overcome at last week’s Prefect Leadership Retreat.

smus-prefect-leadership-02“We had to walk across a wire while holding on to a rope. It took a lot of teamwork to cross the obstacle and everyone was encouraging and supporting you, so you felt you were comfortable when crossing,” says Grade 12 student Anna Mollenhauer, one of the school prefects and a SMUS student since Kindergarten. “The low ropes itself doesn’t apply to what the prefects do at the school, but the ideas from it apply. The things we took out of the challenge, like teamwork, support and encouragement, all need to be present in our prefect meetings and in our everyday lives at the school. We need to work well together to be able to accomplish our goals.”

The goal of the Prefect Leadership Retreat is to give students time off-campus to work on the skills they’ll need to be an effective prefect, and to start planning, as a group, what they want to accomplish this school year.

“This is designed as a team-building experience because that’s what they’ll be doing all year long,” Mathew says. “The goal was to have them leave with improved communication and collaboration skills. We wanted them to know what they each need to be able to lead others, but also how to understand and listen to others. I think we achieved that.”

Anna looks back on her time in leadership roles at SMUS, and says that although she never felt like a born leader, she always felt prepared to be in that position.

“I remember being really nervous working with the Kindergarten students and when I was in Middle School helping the Grade 6s. But I also knew that I had the skills,” she says. “I like how much of an emphasis there is on leadership here because it’s a really important skill to have. I feel like I’ve gained skills at SMUS that I’m going to use for the rest of my life.”

From Kindergarten to Grade 12, SMUS provides opportunities for each student to explore and experience their potential as leaders.

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Kyle Slavin
Kyle Slavin is the school's storyteller. Through words and photos, he shares with the community all the amazing things that happen on campus.

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