Student Leadership

"As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others." – Bill Gates

Leadership styles have been researched, tested, measured and discussed for centuries. The College offers many opportunities for students to develop their leadership in the day-to-day and through significant events. Over the first three weeks of this term, I had the privilege of seeing young people grow their leadership skills before my eyes. In my classroom, as each new unit has started, I have had the students demonstrate bravery by offering answers through the application of their past knowledge into a new context. At the Athletics Carnival, I saw Year 12s organise war cries and support for their House, but I also saw Year 7 students talk each other into filling gaps in races to build House spirit. During the Kokoda Challenge last week, I saw four incredibly intelligent and articulate Year 11 girls move through a range of strategies to ensure the College was well represented in its inaugural year in this fundraising event and to ensure their team reached their 48km goal. However, it was at the Year 9 Higher Ground Camp that I saw a purposeful education session lead to language acquisition and ultimately the delivery of skills training that empowered our group to reflect on their leadership style.

Dylan, the Higher Ground Instructor discussed the Leadership Wheel as a model for explaining leadership traits. He asked the students approximately 30 questions about how they would respond in a range of group scenarios. As students agreed with the statements, they moved further and further from the centre of the wheel to one of the quadrants. Students were then identified as either a Warrior, Teacher, Nurturer, or Visionary. Our group immediately loved the wheel. The most extreme Warrior in our group absolutely lived that leadership style. She was physically fit, pushed the group to move faster and wanted tasks done quickly. Many of the girls in the group were Teachers. They wanted the details, they are organised, methodical and thoughtful rather than spontaneous. The strongest Nurturer in our group was concerned with everyone’s feelings, inclusive, trusting, warm and friendly. For goodness sake, she even bonded with the wok and carried it the whole of our camp. The piece of metal had the name ‘Winona’ and its own identity within just a few days. The strongest Visionary in the group always offered multiple ideas, was divergent in her thinking and made connections where others didn’t. While most of the group were Teachers, we had all styles of leadership within the group. Dylan then challenged the girls to use the last three days of camp to become the Sage. The Sage is seen as flexible, adaptable, and having composure when leading others. He challenged the girls to think about what the group needed from them when they were in charge instead of them using their preferred leadership traits. He asked them to experiment with a range of strategies with different people to see if the outcomes changed. He asked them to reflect on their effectiveness when using different strategies.

Upon our return from camp, I have spoken to parents of students in my group and a colleague who had to join our group when his instructor become ill. Both mentioned the power of the Leadership Wheel. The parent told me that her daughter had agreed with the statement that she was a Warrior and was using language to describe these characteristics. The teacher who joined our group told me that he is the captain of his soccer team outside of the College and he was going to use the language from Higher Ground to help motivate his teammates. For me personally, I really want to become that Sage. I want to be more flexible in the types of leadership I demonstrate. Thankfully, with such a rich career in the Education sector, I have this opportunity to practice every single day. According to Clinton Sidle, the Sage reaches beyond their comfort zones to learn, grow and develop. When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone?

Sue Walduck
Director of Teacher Development & Effectiveness