When Leadership is on Display

Today was an exhausting experience for me. It was our 2012 convocation, where we welcome back all employees to work, and a new school year. (I helped film the event, figure out audio for the event, prepared and ran the slideshow; I took photos, and made a presentation of awards.) We’ve all been back since Monday, but our convocation was today (Thursday) and it was different.

A lot different. It started late in the day (2:30 PM), and ended with ice cream. And it was a real success by most any measure.

Last year, we had a keynote speaker, who spoke on the importance and relevance of twenty-first century skills. That was me. I was happy to help out, but I’m not sure “John” is what we all needed at that point. We needed a booster shot of inspiration and hope. Since last year, we have a new school board and an acting-superintendent with one to be named, hopefully, by September 1st. Our keynote speaker was Mr. Mark Fernandes, from the Luck Companies. Luck is a well-known name in our county. But I doubt too many folks knew Mr. Fernandes.

Over time, he’s become an expert on values-based leadership, and his talk to us inspired many.

The entire experience today was inspirational, but for reasons beyond one speaker. For me, I know, it was because there was leadership on display.

Our new leadership team wanted something different to welcome back teachers. It included some tradition, by recognizing teachers at various levels of service, and we once again recognized teachers for our G21 Faire (projects centered around twenty-first century skills). (I could pontificate many ways in which the leadership of teachers from these G21 projects, alone, was inspirational, such as the team of teachers that ended their project in donations for clean water in Sierra Leone, and how a teacher organized a STEM-based activity day at her school with the full participation of all teachers and all students.) But new to our convocation was a surprising ending by our high school marching band (which, likely, received the biggest applause, which was super cool). There was our teacher of the year who talked all our principals (and assistant principals) into dancing while she rapped about last year’s successes. And there was real leadership on display, through the cooperative collaboration with our newly-created educational foundation, which provided prize money for our G21 awards and a social banquet for all staff.

Our acting superintendent is no new face to us. But what was most inspirational to me, today, was that his vision for carrying us forward was realized on a big scale. I genuinely feel that people were moved by the experience today. And I am proud to have been a team member to make it happen.

As we go though so many scenarios in our VCU classes as future leaders in a place different than we are today, thinking about, and projecting how we’ll be successful, it’s been fun to watch things in my own neck of the woods unfold. And when real leadership is happening around you, it’s got the potential for becoming inspirational.

Our acting superintendent, Dr. Peter Gretz, who recently earned his own Ed.D. from Virginia Tech’s educational leadership program, probably summed up best what I’ve been up to recently in Goochland. “I asked our leadership team, and our principals, about what they want for their students… not one of them told me ‘Good test scores.’ Instead, what they said, was that they wanted to help inspire students to make the world a better place. And that’s dramatic, for sure. I hope you agree. Because it is dramatic, and it’s important. That is for sure.”

I have often marveled, in reading about the culture at Apple in the late 1970s and early 1980s, during the development of the Macintosh. Much has been written about Steve Jobs and his ability to have rallied “his troops” to create something “insanely great.” Programmers, for instance, reportedly would work long hours, and their weekends might be consumed at home coding, too. There was a drive to achieve something new and incredible. There was drive; eventually, there was burn-out, too.

I’ve never felt my work was like this—intense and insanely great. But for once, I’ve seen a glimpse of it. And working towards a goal of improving the world is about as insanely great as it can be.

To learn about Luck’s *Values Based Leadership (VBL)*, check out this page!


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