Principal's Calendar Monthly Reflection: September

By PrinciPal Connection posted 08-24-2017 13:06

To help you keep a handle on what you are responsible for, a group of committed IPA members and staff created The Principal’s Calendar (available for IPA Members). The calendar is broken down by month. At the end of every month we will be sharing out the reflection you should be considering for the upcoming month. The reflections will center around attributes outlined in the School Leader Paradigm. The Principal's Calendar is sponsored by Stifel.

This month's featured attribute:
Empathetic: Has the ability to recognize, value, and share others’ feelings.

Associated Competency
Service: Assures that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.

Associated Intelligence
Social Intelligence: A set of interpersonal competencies that inspire others to be effective.

For Your Reflection
In a Center for Creative Leadership blog post entitled Engage Your Team with the Proven Approach, leadership expert Angie Morgan shared a leadership lesson from her time serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.

When I made the decision to join the Marine Corps, I was certain the lasting impact would be the sea stories I collected while traveling around the world. It’s clear, 20 years later, that the leadership lessons I acquired had the greatest influence over my career and life. Specifically, what I learned about service-based leadership and how, through its practice, leaders can inspire loyalty and engagement from their team.

Captain Harper was one of the greatest contributors to my leadership education, though when I met him he didn’t want to be called by his rank and last name. He wanted to be referred to as Coca-Cola … because he was the “real thing.” Make no mistake, he was.

I was one of his students at a 6-month infantry training program, where all second lieutenants learned the responsibilities related to platoon leadership. Under Coca-Cola’s tutelage, there were high, exacting standards. If you couldn’t reach them, there was no coddling — there were nights and weekends where he’d highly encourage you to practice. If you made mistakes, there was no sliding. He’d point out your deficiencies to you (and due to the volume of his voice, others would be aware of them, too).

I have to admit, I wasn’t too fond of Coca-Cola — at first. He was tough. As a young student trying to make her way in the Corps, I was intimidated by him, and his never-ending “coaching and guidance.”
Yet one day when he called me into his office and shared with me the sad news that my grandmother passed away, I saw a side to him that I had never seen before —empathetic, compassionate, and caring. After he conveyed the news, he started to tell me everything he’d done to help get me back to my family, including arranging transportation to the airport, talking to the training officer to excuse my time off, and calling my parents to let them know their daughter was coming home on the first flight out. He even sent flowers to my parents’ house so they’d be there when I arrived — a thoughtful, surprising gesture that made me feel cared for.

My impression of Coca-Cola was significantly altered after this experience; I felt a deep commitment to him, the team I was a part of, and the Corps. I grew to realize quickly that his efforts — the criticism, the praise, and the concern — were to make me better and prepare me for greater responsibilities. They were done with (dare I say) love. It was the very first time that I understood what Semper Fidelis meant — always faithful, the Marine Corps’ motto.

Through his example I learned that to be a leader, you can be tough, aggressive, and hold people to high standards, but if in their moments of need you can’t be there for them, you’ll never cultivate loyalty and engagement.

To Keep You Thinking
  • What key insights can you draw from Angie Morgan’s reflections of her time in the Marine Corps? What was your initial reaction to Captain Harper (a.k.a. Coca-Cola, a.k.a. the “real thing”)? Did your feelings change as your read on? How? Why?
  • Above, being empathetic is defined as having the ability to recognize, value, and share others’ feelings. Using your own words, how would you define empathy?
  • Why is showing empathy and caring for others a critical leadership skill?
  • Think of the leader who has had the most impact on you personally. How did this person model empathy?
  • Leaders must be careful to express empathy and caring for others with integrity. What must you do to ensure others know your expression of empathy is genuine and not being used to manipulate their feelings or just get your way?
  • To explore the topic of empathy more deeply, consider this article from Why the Empathetic Leader is the Best Leader