Humility in Leadership: Lessons from the 2016-17 Ling Xiu Team

Humility in Leadership: Lessons from the 2016-17 Ling Xiu Team

April 13, 2017

At this time each year, we formally induct a new generation of student leaders, known as Ling Xiu at ISF, to take up positions that carry responsibility for a wide and growing range of tasks, from leading Secondary School assemblies, to planning and coordinating House and School events and celebrations. Our Ling Xius are very important, as they provide a direct and formal link between the student and faculty bodies for two-way communication. This formalized leadership role also offers an important means of developing leadership skills. Each grade level has a Ling Xiu representative from that grade.

How do we find our student leaders? Most members of our Ling Xiu are elected by the Secondary School student body, with candidates having pre-qualified against published standards setting expectations for academic achievement and personal qualities. Giving all Secondary School students a chance to elect their own leaders empowers those elected and legitimizes the selection process. Candidates for the highest Ling Xiu positions, the Zong and Fu Ling Xiu, and the House Captains, all drawn from the senior grades, must publically campaign for office and present a campaign speech at the annual Ling Xiu election rally. Candidates for the Zong and Fu Ling Xiu posts are also invited to participate in a formal interview with a selection panel, chaired by the Head of School. Those who are successful in the selection and election process are thus genuinely representative of the student 'voice'.

Last week, prior to the induction of our new Ling Xiu team last Friday, I hosted a lunch for all of our 2016-17 Ling Xiu team members, in part to thank each of them for their contribution to our school since their induction in April 2016, but also because I wanted to hear their reflections on a year spent as a school leader. Each Ling Xiu was invited to reflect on their Ling Xiu election campaign promises from the year before and to comment on whether aspiration had ultimately translated into action. The ensuing conversations were candid and highly meaningful.

It turns out that there is much that we can learn about leadership from our Ling Xiu. I was quite moved by their reflections, which focused not so much on their successes and achievements, but on those projects or dreams that did not succeed, or fell short of their expectations. Some also shared on the challenges of leadership. Others ventured opinions on the difference between management and leadership, with the former focusing on handling people and resources, and the latter demanding vision and aspiration. In a room full of the top echelon of student leadership, the overwhelming sentiment was one of humility. None of them apportioned blame for any perceived shortcomings, all spoke of a desire to do better, should another opportunity arise; they also acknowledged the deep learning embedded in the experience.

At a time of the year when we reflect and seek wisdom from our experiences over the past academic year, our student leaders offered a grateful and somewhat humbled Head of School with a wonderful lesson in the humility of leadership.

Dr. Malcolm Pritchard
Head of School

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