What makes good leaders?

What struck me most at the Global Forum on Girls Education were the conversations about leadership. Throughout the three days we had inspiring women and men talk about what makes a good leader. Entrepreneur Halla Tomasdottir reminded us that leadership was not about running an organisation well, it was about being the catalyst for change. To be a leader you do not have to be head of an organisation, a headmistress, a head girl, to be a leader you had to be effective in bringing about change in the right way.

Professor of Leadership, Conor Naill believes that to be a great leader you needed to be honest. You needed to be yourself, not be what you think you should be. This idea of authenticity seemed to radiate out from the conference, not only for us as leaders but to instil it in the pupils we teach. Halle Tomasdottir reiterated it with her statement “be sincerely you and live by your principles” because, the standard of the organisation is the standard you walk by. Naill also said that leaders needed to be forward thinking and by that he meant that when there was a problem, a leader was one who looked for a solution, a person who looked to make it better, recognising that it is the problems that make us grow and in solving them we grow as people.

He shared excellent advice. He urged us to keep a journal, a reflection of the day, take five minutes to document your experience of the day. If time did not allow this, then every morning spend one minute thinking about the day ahead, beginning your thoughts with “Today is about…To him it was about positive leadership, leading whole lives with purpose and joy.

Gail Kelly, businesswoman and former CEO of Westpac, picked up this theme, she felt strongly that if you choose to be positive in life you will be happier and people around you will be happier too. We all have the capacity to choose and in leading positive lives we are modelling it for others. We need to be authentic, connected and believe in the dignity of each human being, and in the power of each individual to make a difference. As leaders it is our responsibility to allow individuals to flourish and enabling them to make this difference.

However, it is equally important to recognise that in leadership things go wrong, mistakes are made, things do not always go to plan. We therefore have to dig deep, to have courage in our convictions and keep our integrity. Col Lucy Knight captured this best when she said “leadership is doing the right thing on a really difficult day when no one else is looking”. It is on those days you have to dig deep, have courage in your convictions and be true to your principles. I could not agree more and I hope these are principles we can instil in our girls.

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