Leadership skills learned by Perse Heads of School at virtual student conference
16 Oct 2020
Perse Heads of School Victoria Leung and Fabian Dodds (both Upper Sixth) provide their thoughts on taking part Wellington College’s virtual Head of School Conference.
As with many things this year, the conference was unable to take place as it normally would and instead was held via Zoom. The annual event allows pupil leaders from across the country to get together, learn together and discuss aspects of life at their schools.
We were welcomed by the Wellington College Head before splitting off into groups exploring pastoral scenarios such as bullying and sanctions. Dr Edward Brooks talked about ‘How to grow as a leader’, likening leadership to a pair of lungs – leaders breathe life into and energise the collective and, like a muscle, their capacity will grow with effort. We discussed how to create cultural change, starting small with those around you before moving towards institutional reformation.
Jane Lunnon then gave a talk about public speaking, mentioning how it was the most common phobia, ahead of death and spiders, and the third most prevalent cause of anxiety after divorce and bereavement. We watched various politicians do it the right way and the wrong way, agreeing that those speaking with sincerity and patience were much better received. Barack Obama’s ‘Yes We Can’ speech underlined the importance of ‘working the pause’ and appealing to both the heart and the head.
I can wholeheartedly say that it was a very valuable and worthwhile experience. For me, the most interesting and inspiring part was Mrs Lunnon’s talk on public speaking. It was astonishing the difference that can be made to a speech through good technique. She highlighted the importance of knowing what you are going to say, not just enough to say it, but enough to really mean it and to inspire others to feel the same – a thought that will stick with me whenever I need to give a speech.
Dr Brooks shared a similar idea in his talk on growing as a leader about how they must be able to energise and empower others. He talked about changing culture and that a leader should start with the people close to them and allow the idea to expand. Having listened to this talk, it was really interesting to talk through pastoral scenarios with other student leaders and learn from their experiences, seeing what has or has not worked.
It was lovely to share our experiences, both in terms of our new positions and in response to the pandemic, and I enjoyed speaking with other Heads of School, learning about their leadership structures. Particularly interesting was hearing from schools in Guernsey, which is currently COVID-free.
Dr Brooks emphasised that the way you view leadership controls how you lead, and true leaders are those who get the work done, advancing causes and creating visions rather than those whose pictures are on the wall.
Another tip was to take opportunities for personal reflection. Internal factors are much more important than external factors and asking for feedback is essential to improve and grow as a leader. Perhaps most profound was the notion that leaders also need to be willing to be led. Take the responsibility, not yourself, seriously. Embrace mistakes and constantly ask yourself, ‘How can I serve?’