Leadership Lessons From a Fifth Grader

I am just back from HREvolution and heading into the office with a few lingering thoughts about leadership and being the real deal. As I process them, I'd like to share with you a post from last year about leadership from a fifth grader. Why can't adults just seem to get this right?

Leadership. Sometimes it's so quiet that if you didn't know what you were looking for, you'd miss it.

My daughter started middle school and has had so many opportunities in just the first 4 weeks. One of those was election for student council. So, with 9 students in her homeroom interested in the coveted leadership spot, each set out to create a poster and prepare a speech to solicit votes from their peers. Hers went like this:


"Hi, I'm running for Student Council. I am reliable and responsible and would like to represent you. I am also able to to do something kind of unusual. I can do this <insert freaky finger trick here.> I'm sorry, I just had to make sure you were awake. Like I said, I would like to represent you on the student council. I appreciate your vote and respect your decision. I also brought in some treats for your enjoyment."

<parent note: this line was overridden by the teacher and the Fudge Stripes were not mentioned or shared until after the vote!>

When my husband and I saw her later that day - she was psyched. She LOVED giving the speech and friends told her she was funny, she did not talk too fast and she seemed so comfortable. Giggling and unable to contain her excitement, she wanted to do it again - even though she did not get elected. 

"We're so proud of you for going for it" we said, "look at the wonderful experience you had." Playing with the kid we said, "At least you know you got one vote - your own."

"No," she said. "I had 2 votes and I did not vote for myself."

What?! Turns out she took her 2 votes and used 1 vote for friend A because she was nervous and did a great job on her speech and the other vote for friend B because she thought she'd be a great representative.

Wow, I thought, as I settled back and took a close look at the young girl sitting beside me. Mistaking my pride for doubt, she asked if that was the right thing to do.



The story doesn't end there.

A few days later she came home sad. It seems a friend told her she lost the election because she didn't vote for herself. <darn kids> I could see the struggle between for self and for others multiplied by middle school drama.

We talked about not knowing how the votes were distributed, remembering how psyched she was after the presentation and how good it felt to support her 2 friends. We talked about winning vs. being a good person and about how we were so very proud of her.


Leaders bring out the best in others and, when it's all said and done, that's who people follow. 

I know leadership is not about pomp and circumstance yet I have to wonder, is there still a place for quiet leadership in the loud world we live in today?

HR Competencies: The Golden Ticket for Business Success

When I was asked if I was interested in reviewing the latest in HR competency research, I said yes, and a complimentary copy of HR From the Outside In: Six Competencies for the Future of HR by David Ulrich, Jon Younger, Wayne Brockbank and Mike Ulrich was soon delivered to my doorstep.

I have to admit, when I first heard the title, my mind flashed to the scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where the winners of the golden tickets were inside of the gate of the Wonka factory and everyone else on the outside wishing the were in. In my mind flash, HR professionals were not the golden ticket winners.

With this picture in my mind, I cracked the cover and began to read with an eye towards self development, staff development, a personal interest in a discussion on leadership and credibility... and getting HR inside the gate to the factory.

The authors delivered.

Rich in research and context, the discussions of each of the six competencies offer insight, explanation and real world examples I could relate to. The six competencies are:

  • Strategic Positioner
  • Credible Activist
  • Capability Builder
  • Change Champion
  • HR Innovator and Integrator
  • Technology Proponent

A few points that caught my attention as I moved through 250+ pages of "what HR professionals need to know and do" are:

  • "The domain in which HR tends to be the weakest is in understanding and applying technology to build HR efficiency, to leverage social networking, and to manage the flow of strategic information."
  • "The factors that have the greatest impact on business success are, in order of importance, connecting people through technology; aligning strategy, culture, practices and behavior; and sustaining change."

Did you know that the quality of the HR department is about 4x as important as the quality of HR professionals in predicting business performance? There is even a guide to assist you in developing an effective HR department.

It's a pretty good guide, but here's the deal with guides. They are just guides. And as easy and tempting as it would be for any HR professional to fall into line and follow the guide, this not what the profession needs.

Read the book but don't read it as a how-to manual. Read it is a guide or a foundation to develop an extraordinary HR organization of competent HR professionals who advance the goals of the business. The HR profession needs less, "If I do ABC, I will be XYZ" and more personal accountability for getting the job done, for delivering results and for providing leadership organizations need.

It all circles back to the competent HR professional. It all circles back to you. So, now that you have the golden ticket, what are you going to do with it?

Photo credit: David Airey

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.