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Is leadership a privilege?

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

If you have ever looked at applications for a position, have you ever thought to yourself:

  1. There aren’t enough girls/women in my application pool,

  2. There aren’t enough boys/men in my application pool, or

  3. There are not enough people of color in my application pool?

I was speaking with a friend who was talking about her husband, a manager for a financial firm. He was tasked to hire new employees, and he was told that there were not enough women in his applicant pool. This stood out to him, and honestly me - how can I control the people who apply for the positions I hire for?

So instead of asking ourselves how we can control who applies for those positions, we need to ask ourselves: How do we get those underrepresented populations to apply?

To be honest, the last few days I’ve been struggling. I recently came to the realization that leadership is a privilege. It broke my heart. I’m hoping you’re reflecting on that comment right now, the way I have been reflecting on it. When I pitched my idea of writing about student leadership to my sister-in-law, who works in an private boarding school, she asked, “Are you kidding? Leadership is shared and taught in many independent high schools!”

Wait, what!?

I believe that I’m teaching at the only public school in New Hampshire that has a class that teaches students leadership skills. That wasn’t something that I wanted to hear. What does that mean? Are schools only teaching our privileged and elite students how to be leaders?

If I stop and think about it, yes. That is what’s happening. Think about the leaders, the public leaders for example, why are they in leadership? Was their leadership given as privilege, or because of the skills that they possess? I think you need to answer that question for yourself, but I am telling you that we are not teaching leadership skills to every student.

Leadership is a privilege.

I didn’t want to admit that, because it makes me stop and think about why I asked my own students to apply for the student leadership program, but I also think that leadership is a job. Not everybody wants to be a leader, and not everybody is going to choose to be a leader. But that is not for me to decide, it’s for each individual to decide for themselves. However, if they’re not given the tools, then how will they know that they can become an extraordinary leader?

I think every parent and teacher should be thinking about that question, and how can we empower every child with leadership skills, releasing it from only the privileged.

How do choose the student leaders in your school?

If you would like to build leadership capacity in your school, I encourage you to find new ways for students to be true leaders, and share this post with someone else. If you think the ideas I am sharing could be useful in a training session for you or your school - please contact me today for a discovery conversation to see if we are a good fit. I really want to spread the world with strong, confident leaders. I can work with teachers, students or your own children, there is really nothing we can’t try.

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