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Please enjoy the Thought for the Term from Miss Reidy

Posted on: 02/12/2022

This term, I have been reflecting on the power of quiet leadership. Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, said: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

This might seem contradictory to the way we usually imagine a leader, perhaps as someone with a bold voice who can make themselves heard in a crowd. When I was a school pupil myself, this is certainly how I pictured leadership. I used to be painfully shy and would turn bright red whenever I was chosen to answer a question in lessons. I definitely did not imagine that I would be standing at the front of the class ten years on! My confidence to lead did not arrive overnight. Instead, it grew through my desire to help. I found that I could assist my fellow students in class, explaining things in different ways until they understood. I felt confident in using my voice in these moments because I knew I had something valuable to share, and that I was the only one who could share it. I believe a lot of teachers’ career choice stems from the same innate desire to use their voice to help.

It is clear that a teacher we “barely know […] exists” would not be ideal! The final part of Tzu’s statement, however, certainly resonates with me. My greatest wish as a teacher is to lead my students towards success, but for them to own those victories and feel “we did it ourselves”. Indeed, I think Tzu is saying that being a leader is not about being the centre of attention: it is about noticing everyone and guiding them all on their individual pathways until the goal is achieved.

I would ask all students to consider their potential as leaders. You do not have to be the loudest or most charismatic person in the room. You do not have to be the first person to jump headfirst into any new situation. You need to find something you are passionate about and have the desire – and patience! - to share it with others.

Miss Reidy
English Teacher
St Birinus School

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