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?

Girls and Math: A Day in the Life Sunday

"'Math is hard,' a talking Barbie infamously whined.

And math is tough for many people, but a new study from the Girl Scout Research Institute finds encouraging news about girls' interest in (and confidence about) science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Actually, the widely-repeated Barbie quote above is incorrect; she really said "Math class is tough." And like the Barbie quote, the perception that girls don't feel smart enough to do math (or aren't interested in it) isn't quite true either: The study finds that 74 percent of teen girls are interested in STEM subjects."

Until this morning, I had not read these words in the Discovery News article, Girls Confident in Science and Math. I wasn't aware of the article and the findings until I Googled "girls math 2012 news."

Why in the world did I Google this? It's all about the kid.

The kid was in her first Math Masters competition last weekend. 24 teams of 4 students from 12 schools participated in individual and team events. Typically, one team from our middle school makes the top 3 - which one would it be?

Individual events, team events, kids huddled over papers and calculator keys clicking away every student in the gym that morning gave it their all.

In the minority, our girls made a strong showing. I wasn't at the event but when I heard that one of her teammates won the Fact Quiz I was psyched, go girls! When the kid and her team placed 3rd place out of 24 teams I said, "That's my girl!"

I was thinking "go girls" but the very cool thing about kids at this age, is that they were not. They were thinking and encouraging each other with, "Go Tarah!" "Go Elizabeth!" "Go Eli!" "Go Ethan!" They don't see gender stereotypes or they don't see societal pressures. They see confidence, competence and challenge. They see friends.

I am so thrilled that the schools offer these opportunities for our children and want to acknowledge the the educators who devote their time beyond the school day, the community of parents who support our children and the students themselves for being better to each other than we as a society can be to ourselves.

The article notes that while there are still bumps in the road for women in STEM careers, the future has never been brighter.

I agree.

Photo credit: Piscataways Schools