So What Then, Is Leadership?

So What Then, Is Leadership?

Congratulations to Trent Simpson of Year 12, both our SRC and Art and Design Captain at the Senior Boys Campus for this reflection on what it means to be a leader.

You do not need multi-millionaires, celebrities, or national athletes to inspire you. Leaders can come from all walks of life. It’s true that leaders with titles are more on display and easier to see, but it does not make them a better leader. Many people believe the leaders are the loudest people, the ones with best ideas. As Winston Churchill once said –“ Leadership is what it takes to stand up and speak. Leadership is also what it takes to sit down and listen”.

So what then is leadership? A seemingly simple question with a not-so-simple answer. A study conducted with over 150 CEOs around the world found that even when they were asked to define leadership, they struggled to give a definition without pausing and thinking. So what does this tell us? Leadership is a word thrown around so much without clear definition; and when the CEOs gave their definition no two out of the 150 produced the same answer. Some of the CEOs defined leadership as Business Acumen others as a person showing human qualities such as empathy, humility, or diversity. Does this mean that 149 of them were wrong? No. It means that leadership is subjective it is not the same for any one of us.

Leadership is not about you, not about power, not about control, not having all the answers, not doing everything yourself, not taking credit for others. Leadership is not management. Warren Bennis puts it this way “a good manager does things right, a leader does the right things”. A leader must be vulnerable, but hungry for not only their own success but the success of those around them. It is about having the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome. To have the ability to empathise and understand the needs, thoughts, and feelings of other.

So how can we all be good leaders? Leadership is not something that can just be learnt or taught. Rather this is a virtue developed and polished with time and experience. That does not mean we can’t all be leaders though. To become a good leader, you must be confident in your ability but not afraid to fail. The reality of the matter is all great leaders have experienced failure and adversity throughout their life and its how they respond to it that determines who they are as leaders. One of the most famous allied wartime time powers experienced his downfall long before he got to the top of British parliament during World War II. Winston Churchill’s infamous Gallipoli campaign saw him at the centre of a government crisis at Westminster. He abandoned his post and headed to the frontline in France. It was this courageous act that saw the opinion of him turn on its head as Britain feared invasion from axis forces in World War II, he famously said: “success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”.

While its important to be your own leader, its important to take inspiration from others and here’s a leader who inspires me. Since taking over the Richmond captaincy in 2013, Trent Cotchin has become one of the AFL’s top leaders. His small acts around the ground such as high-fiving every teammate on to the field and his selflessness are just two of the many reasons his leadership as seen Richmond transform as a club over the last decade. Cotchin himself often notes his love for the development of those around him, by making himself vulnerable and breaking down barriers between himself and teammates. An interview with Garry Lyon and Tim Watson, Cotchin opened up explaining he didn’t need to be Luke Hodge or Nick Riewoldt, he needs to be Trent Cotchin. The best version of himself. He didn’t become a good leader because he was a premiership captain, he became a premiership captain because he was a good leader.

So like Trent Cotchin I challenge you all not to become a version someone else but become the best version of yourself.

© St Margaret's School 2021

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