“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence, and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”
Those words by Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Office of Facebook, incapsulate what it means to be a Prefect at Trafalgar Castle School. It is not about “who’s in charge” or “who gives the orders”, although I will say that, as women, I hope none of us shy away from the fact that we can steer the ship, we can lead the charge, and we can call the shots. But in the role of Prefect, what we ask of our young women is that they strive to model the way for others, that they endeavour to make the right decision at all times, and that they do so with consideration, intelligence, and grace. And in so doing, they strengthen our community, and inspire those girls who will follow in their footsteps.
We also ask that they demonstrate integrity, courage, compassion, and resilience. And as if that isn’t enough, we expect them to embody innumerable traits – inclusiveness, collaboration, reflection…the list goes on and on.
Why do we do this? Isn’t it unrealistic to expect anyone to be all these things at every point in time? Wouldn’t it be easier to simply say, “Hey, Prefects. Just be chill. Relax and have fun”? Well, the simple answer is yes. It would be easier. And yes, it is unrealistic to expect what is, for all intents and purposes, perfection. No one can be all these things at all points in time. None of us is perfect. So why do we throw down the gauntlet and challenge our girls to achieve the impossible?
We sometimes talk about born leaders – conveying the idea that leadership is something you either possess or you don’t. But that belief is the antithesis of a growth mindset, something we espouse at Trafalgar. So while leadership may come more naturally or more easily to some than to others, the seeds of leadership are embedded within each and every one of us. Leadership can be nurtured, it can be taught, and it can be strengthened.
That is why we hold the bar so high. Not because we expect perfection. Not because we believe that every effort at leadership will result in success. But because we believe that leadership is about the journey – it’s about the challenge of being the best you can be, and of helping others to do the same.
So to our incoming Prefects, please know that the road you will travel this year may not always be smooth. You may encounter road blocks or speed bumps. And you will not, in fact, you cannot, be perfect. But you will emerge stronger for all the challenges you encounter. You will become better leaders with every day that passes. And when you venture forth from our Castle walls in June, we will be better for having been a part of your journey.