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  • Reverend James Squire

Leaders By Definition Always Work With Others

Updated: Feb 9, 2021




Leaders never accomplish anything on their own. There are four basic requirements necessary for any group to work effectively. I gleaned these principles from years of work with various leadership groups, most notably our Student Vestry, our elected spiritual leadership group for Upper School. This group planned our chapel services under guidance from Topher and me.

The first critical component of leadership is that everyone has to look forward to attending working meetings in the same way that a team looks forward to the big game. There has to be a positive mindset regardless of the difficult nature of the problem or endeavor to be discussed. What could be more exciting than going up against a great opponent in sports or tackling the solution to a serious problem?

Second, for a group to be successful, participants have to generally enjoy being in each other’s company while working with each other. Civil discourse must be the goal. It is the leader, like a great coach, who makes sure this happens.

Third, there has to be a sense that what the group is doing is very important and will make a difference in other people’s lives as well as in their own. I would always underscore for the Student Vestry the life changing potential of their work, as they shaped the moral culture of the school. I measured the success of a meeting by how much or how little I talked. The less I talked the better. Coaches don’t run out on a basketball court and get in the mix, but they enter the action when adjustments need to be made and insights shared. The important people are the students or players.

Fourth, when the meeting ends the participants, including the leader, must feel that the meeting time was used efficiently. Setting clear goals and outcomes for each meeting and reviewing those at the close of the meeting can be a good way to gauge success.

The above four principles are the basics of effective leadership. I wish that all people would commit to learning the art of leadership from leaders who have done ordinary as well as extraordinary things. This approach has the potential to guide a person to develop a leadership style most congruent with their personality. For example, my neighbor on the Chesapeake was the person who led DuPont’s efforts to enter the mainstream of Chinese business. It was a huge undertaking. I asked Bob one day to share with me the most important aspect of leadership that enabled him to have the success he did in China. He indicated that great leadership frames the conversation in a way that manages people’s expectations. One of the first things that he did was to introduce his people to the concept of the “dirty thirty”. The dirty thirty is as follows: if 30% of your day is a difficult challenge and 70% is filled with good things, then the day has been good.

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned about leadership and human relationships is something that I also taught in my Ethics classes. Leadership can often be made strong during times of conflict and anger. Remember that anger is based in expectations. Think of the last time you were angry and seek to discover the cause of your anger in terms of a missed expectation.

I have read many books on leadership. By far the best book that spoke to leadership in an engaging, enlightened fashion that made sense to me is Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Leadership In Turbulent Times. It is an analysis of “the transformative leadership of Abraham Lincoln, the crisis leadership of Theodore Roosevelt, the turnaround leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the visionary leadership of Lyndon B. Johnson.”

(Goodwin (2018)

Please know that an understanding about leadership cannot be gleaned solely from a book. It must be coupled with a deep understanding of human nature and care for others. Courage and resilience are essential.

The most important thing is to be YOU as a leader. Esse Quam Videri, To Be Rather Than To Seem To Be. There is a leader in all of us. We need only to discover it. The question is not “Am I a leader?” but “What kind of leader do I want to be?” You don’t need a title to be a leader. You just need to see leadership as a valuable part of who you could be. No matter what your station in life, leadership awaits you

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