We studied historical leaders and what makes a successful leader as part of the Year 8 Humanities curriculum. The students returned with some predictable responses, and prominent historical individuals including Elizabeth II, Churchill, Drake, Caesar, and Pankhurst all received adequate attention. However, the biggest impact came from the unexpected comments.
One pupil said, “Why are so many leaders so loud?” The traditional argument about public speaking, inspiring the people, and communication skills were the causes. Yet, it got us thinking about why there are so many loud leaders and why we can miss the quiet leaders. In school, all we can do is keep providing all pupils with opportunities to lead in many different guises. Naturally some pupils are more prone to speaking up and throwing themselves into every activity than others, and vice versa. When to support the quiet leaders and when to assist the self-assured students in stepping to the side without deflating spirits or creating an artificial environment is a delicate balance that teachers must strike on day-to-basis.
Early on in school, it is simple to identify confident leaders since they frequently speak out loud and tackle new activities and adventures with the most assurance. The difficulty, though, lies in giving the quieter soul the courage to enter the world of leadership and promote quieter leaders.
Do we want loud leaders or someone a little calmer and more sensitive in an ever-changing world? According to reports, 90–95% of senior executives have very high extrovert scores, but many of their employees are dissatisfied with their leadership abilities. If the leader spoke less, would the followers listen more to them? Does listening and reflecting or speaking and inspiring have a greater impact on people?
The quiet leader is more likely to acknowledge the contributions of their team and give them credit for their work. All leaders should be careful to reflect, consult, comprehend, and study different viewpoints. A loud personality is not needed for these skills! Also, they are less prone to sacrifice themselves in pursuit of incentives like school rewards or popularity because their motivation typically comes from within.
Vocal leaders must continue to motivate their followers and take the initiative, whilst giving others a chance to shine. When louder personalities work collaboratively with quieter members, this can be hugely rewarding for both parties. For the more self confident children allowing others to lead is a sign of strength and maturity. For the more reticent children supported by a more confident peer means they can jump off the platform and make a splash!
In schools, it’s common for the extrovert pupils to command more attention. At Cheam, we work hard to enable all pupils to find their leadership moments and to be heard, to learn how to lead in different contexts, be that on the sports pitch, in school council, being a buddy for a new pupil or running a charity initiative. Carving out small opportunities to lead can be the building blocks for those of a less outgoing nature.
We also recognise the quieter moment of leadership that are valuable, such as doing the right thing, consistently setting the standard, stepping up for friends, a supportive smile, kind comments and understanding those around you. These are equally important leadership skills as those who step into the spotlight and deliver spine tingling speeches and lead from the front. The world is changing and now more than ever we will need leaders of all types. It might be easier to spot the extrovert leader, but the quiet leaders need equal celebration, recognition and praise.
A wise teacher once told me, ‘God gave you two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk’. Good advice and something all young leaders might take on board as they look to move forward.