Annual Head of School Conference

Mary and Ashleigh attended the 16th Annual Head of School Conference ...

In October of this year, myself and Ashleigh attended the 16th Annual Head of School Conference at Wellington College; this years theme being ‘unleashing leadership’. The conference is aimed at head boys/ girls/ students, with the aim of improving their leadership skills, in hopes of every student gaining something that they are able to take back to their school, or to develop themselves as current and future leaders. Ashleigh and I were given the opportunity to hear a number of people speak, enlightening us on a variety of perspectives on leadership and how individual experiences shape and influence one’s experience of leading. We were also given the chance to engage in meaningful conversations with over a hundred other student leaders, some from as far away as Paris. Hearing how other young people have taken to their roles and the responsibility that comes with it, allowed us to gain a wider understanding of what leadership means to different people, and meant we could bring back to school a new perspective and a more holistic approach. Listening to a variety of ideas and initiatives implemented by others inspired us to do similar things and gave us a network of people to reach out to for further advice and creative conversations. I found it reassuring to hear that many people find the concept of leadership daunting, as do I. However, then listening to professionals in their field speak on their experience, and finding that they too felt overwhelmed and still do, was encouraging.

During the first talk, we learned about the power of purpose. Directing passions and focusing goals with intentions, whether they are vague or specific, leads to improved outcomes and generally increased wellbeing. External dimensions will inevitably impact you and potentially throw you off track, but remaining confident in your intended direction will enable you to find your way back to the path of success quicker and easier. We were encouraged not to see school as a means to an end. It can be easy to view the current stage in life or the closest upcoming exam or deadline as the ultimate goal, but it is essential to simply see these events as stages along the path to success. They each contribute to the end goal, and thus should not be seen as a final hurdle, but merely a stepping stone. In fact, it is likely there will never be a final hurdle as such, so long as you stay focused and intent on personal development and success.
Additionally, we were encouraged by Ed Brooks from Oxford University to identify the personal elements required for successful leadership, such as gratitude, humility, courage and compassion. In order to lead people, it is vital that you are able to empathise with them and not appear too much as an outsider, as that can often lead to hostility and adverse reactions to change. While it is evident that some leaders within the political sphere have not adopted this more personable approach to leadership, examples such as Nelson Mandela were presented to us, who showed kindness in the face of persecution and was ultimately successful in his goals. He made a decision to believe in even the most disliked people and worked with them, he saw opportunities in places many found to be a lost cause, an attribute that I would argue can be found in some of the world’s greatest leaders.

One of the biggest lessons I took from the day, was to not fear failure. Some of the greatest leaders and pioneers in their field were faced with so-called ‘failures’ multiple times. This failure ultimately formed a part of their character, improving resilience and increasing their desire to never give up.

Overall, I would say we benefited greatly from the conference. It opened our eyes to the world of leadership, enabled us to grow as individuals and gave us the confidence to believe in ourselves as leaders.