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Leading by example

By Danny Harrington

Leadership is a characteristic that seems to be perpetually elusive. We recognise it when we see or experience it in others. We often struggle to do the same when the burden falls on our own shoulders. And when it comes to putting pen to paper, it seems to me that very few have come anywhere close to effectively describing it. It is then, in my opinion, an example of the perfect candidate for experiential learning. A subject which can only truly be acquired and developed [yes I believe you can learn leadership, just some are naturally better than others, as in all things] through purposeful engagement in team-based activity which always requires leadership in one form or another. 

In the “leadership industry” which has blossomed and ballooned in recent years, we often make the mistake of transferring leadership lessons between inappropriate spheres of experience or of transferring the lessons in an inappropriate way. The more lazy proponents of leadership training seem to fall back on military frameworks as if charging into battle is the only true form of leadership [it is not and I speak with a small amount of military experience myself]. How can infantry leadership relate to teacher leadership in a classroom of teenagers? Well it can’t. Directly. But we can glean some elements of leadership that seem to be common across many different leadership scenarios. One of these is leadership by example. Even young children can recognise this, often picking the best footballer to be captain for instance.

I was moved to write this after reading a blog post by Jeremy Lees, the headmaster of my son’s school. You can read it here and see how leadership by example can be so powerful. It doesn’t make a leader and it is not the only component of leadership but it is perhaps one of the most powerful elements involved and perhaps one of the easiest to grasp and apply.

So be the best you can be in all that you do

and before you know it

you will be a leader too.


ITS Education Asia is launching a Certificate in Experiential Learning in conjunction with Tai Poutini Polytechnic [Sept 2017] for all aspiring leaders.

Dulwich College Singapore

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

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