What does it mean to be a leader?

This is the question the girls have been considering this last week as they begin to apply for school leadership roles. To help answer this question we invited Her Majesty’s, Lord Lieutenant Helen Nellis, into Bedford Girls’ School to address the girls at our whole school assembly.

The Lord Lieutenant saw leadership as an opportunity to make a difference to the world in which we live, and for girls to have the confidence to step up to the mark. Too often, she said, we listen to our gremlins that tell us that we are not good enough, someone else can do the job more successfully and we would be better off not trying. It is this fear of failure that stops us taking risks and thereby limiting our opportunities and chances. She encouraged the girls to get rid of the gremlins and to recognise that they were more than capable of stepping into the role.

The Girls’ Leadership Group (GLG) took up this theme and said they valued leadership because it took them out of their comfort zone. The GLG had learnt that it was alright to make mistakes and that they would get things wrong as much as they would get things right. Once they realised this, it gave them the confidence to embrace the role.

But for me, perhaps the most pertinent way to think of leadership was articulated by the Head Girl, Juliet Allen. Juliet took the verb “to lead” and saw leadership as someone who gives direction and shows others the way. In giving direction you inspire others, you become a role model that others want to follow. To be a leader you don’t have to be someone in power but instead someone going about their business in everyday life. A scientist whose work is cutting edge, a designer whose ideas are a source of inspiration to others, or a charity worker living by her values that encourages others to support her cause, all of these people are leaders.

Leadership comes in many different forms and everyone is capable of leading. At BGS we give girls many opportunities to lead. We encourage them to believe in themselves and apply for the leadership positions. Their actions and leadership qualities have already made a difference to the school community and I know they will continue to make a difference to the world in which they live.

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