Empowering Student Leadership

This week, Mrs Woolley (Director of Sixth Form) guest writes on the Headmistress blog about the upcoming Girls’ Leadership Group (GLG) election process. 

Over the half term I had a little time to continue reading a book I had started over Christmas: Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. He makes a really interesting assertion regarding our best days at work. Surprisingly, perhaps, when asked about this very few people recount a time when everything fell into place and went smoothly. For most people, warmer feelings are felt when everything seemed to go wrong, and they had to work as a team to find a solution. It is not the hardship itself that is enjoyed, but rather the sense of camaraderie that is remembered with fondness, having been fostered by the sharing of such experiences. As a Scientist, it is particularly fascinating that the oxytocin our bodies release during times of struggle can allow individuals within a team to grow biologically closer. I can certainly say this resonates with me and the teams I have worked with over the past two years of lockdowns, cancelled examinations, school closures, online learning and supporting students as they navigate these challenges.

It has been particularly timely to read Sinek’s book at this point in the academic year, as the second half of the Spring Term in Sixth Form brings with it the annual Girls’ Leadership Group (GLG) election process, when our Lower Sixth students have the opportunity to apply for roles on the Leadership and Prefect teams: application forms are completed; a vote of confidence from Sixth Form students and staff takes place; and then students are shortlisted for interview. Whilst not all will be successful, the chance to prepare for the application and interview process is a really sharp learning curve for the students, and one which takes all of them out of their comfort zone. Whatever the outcome, there is a real sense of fellowship and achievement amongst the candidates who put themselves forward: particularly for our Head Girl applicants, as in addition to an interview, they will also write a blog and make a speech. Their willingness to engage and the time they take to prepare and craft their speeches never fails to impress me; it is testament to the empowered, ambitious and brave students we nurture at BGS.

On 13th March the new GLG and Prefect Team will be announced, and with new roles of a Junior School Captain, Diversity and Inclusion Captain and Sustainability Captain this year, there are plenty of opportunities for our students to develop leadership skills, manage teams, contribute to the wider BGS community and leave their mark.

In the run up to the application process I have spoken to the students about leadership and in doing so, have addressed the misconception that leaders are not always the loudest and most forceful individuals, and reinforced that empathy, communication, vision, integrity and positivity are far more important traits.  The successful candidates will attend a leadership strategy day where they will work with experienced Alumnae to explore the question of leadership and teamwork. They will look at building strength in collaboration and how to bring a community together to work towards a common goal.

There will of course be challenges along the way. Managing their workload, co-curricular activities, social life and, in some cases, a part time job alongside their additional leadership responsibilities can be a tricky balance and there will be some invaluable lessons to learn. However, I am sure our students will rise to the upcoming challenges as they develop so many new skills.

Our outgoing GLG have certainly embodied being bold, imaginative and reflective over the past year and will undoubtedly be able to apply what they have learnt to the next stage of their lives. I hope they have found that it is the camaraderie of shared experience, working together in the face of sometimes difficult odds and taking the opportunity to lift each other up, that has provided fulfilment, learning and wonderful memories.

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