A lesson in leadership from a thirteen year old

Last week, I was on camp with the Year Sevens. A colleague of mine and I were in charge of 17 year 7s and one year 10 "peer-helper". One morning, the team had an activity called "Team Rescue". It was their task to get through a crocodile infested river using a minimal set of equipment, until they arrived at a helipad. The girls had to carry a mannequin on a stretcher. They decided the mannequin's name was Janet.

The activity brought out many individual characteristics in the girls. One girl displayed some selfishness, while others were great foot soldiers. A few girls carried Janet through obstacles without complaining once about their burden. The most remarkable girl was Jenny. She was a great leader and this article is an attempt on my part to consolidate the lessons I learnt about leadership by observing her.

Jenny was full of creative ways to get through the course. She conveyed them to the other girls in a courteous manner and they accepted her suggestions. She gave herself many of the less glamorous jobs. Jenny listened to the suggestions that others made and affirmed them. One thing she wasn't doing at the beginning was giving others pats on the back. This changed half way through the activity, to complete her skill set as a leader.

The thing that impressed me the most about Jenny's manner was how nonplussed she was in urgent situations. Her sense of humour was not threatened for one second, even when she fell and when others were doing the wrong thing by the team.

When we're back at school, I intend to speak to Jenny about her leadership. Our school provides training and responsibilities for such girls, especially as they enter Year Eight. I hope she puts her hand up for a captaincy. I also hope I can learn to maintain my sense of humour when "the chips are down".

Like many of my colleagues, I find camps tiring and I wonder about the sacrifices that have to be made, such as leaving my family and being on duty for 24 hours of the day. What makes it all worthwhile is the privilege of seeing students in a different light and coming to realise just what remarkable individuals some of them are.

Can you think of a time when you learnt a lesson from a child? If so, please share it.


Anonymous said…
I learned a very strong lesson from a twelve year old boy and that lesson was about unconditional forgiveness. He had endured several years of terrorism and bullying towards everyone from his class from a fellow student. The kind that caused changes in his behaviour, personality and caused him to sleepwalk and necessitated a change of schools in the end. The twelve year old found out that he was unable to lose the clutches of this bully because he had to play football with him in the same team on Sundays. When finals came around the "bully" stuffed up an easy play and missed a goal that cost them the match the opportunity to put him in his place had arrived. The twelve year old went to his nemesis, put his arm around his shoulder and with honest compassion he told him not to worry "mate" and other soothing comments. The twelve year old was my own son and the bitterness that dissolved with his single act of compassion taught me the power and importance of forgiveness. That evening I extended an apology to the "bully's" mother for the anger that I had felt over the past few years. It would appear that forgiveness is not only a relief but is also contagious.
Thanks for sharing this story. It is really powerful. I think I will be returning to read it several times.

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