Wednesday we held our primary and secondary investiture ceremonies, acknowledging those of our girls who have accepted the responsibility of leading their peers. In the speeches today, we reflected on some of the qualities displayed by good leaders, particularly integrity. Former US President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, stated “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible”.
Integrity is key to positive school leadership. Effective school leaders are honest, trustworthy, and reliable. They practise what they preach, own up to mistakes, apologise and don’t make excuses. They follow school rules, all of them – not just the ones they agree with or like. They treat all members of the community respectfully and kindly. They know that their behaviour reflects not just on themselves, but on the whole school.
Good leaders are also a positive influence. Good leaders know how to lead the way, how to encourage others to follow them and how to use their influence to be a positive voice for students. Good leaders respectfully and appropriately advocate for change, they express their views in a way that doesn’t cause offence, but they also know how to listen to others’ viewpoints, how to compromise and how to accept when decisions don’t go their way.
Great leaders also have great empathy for others. American talk show host Oprah Winfrey said, “Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” Empathetic leadership means understanding the needs of others, and being aware of their feelings and thoughts. It means understanding that school isn’t easy for everyone and taking action to support and empower others. Empathetic leaders don’t walk past a lonely student and they don’t ignore an injustice, such as bullying or ostracism. Instead, they do their best to make other students’ experiences of school a little bit better.
Being elected a school leader at Girls Grammar is a privilege and an honour that remains valued for many years afterwards. This was clearly evidenced through the attendance at our investiture ceremonies today of Old Girls Jan Davison, Ngaire Kane and Margo McKenzie, Girls Grammar Head Girls in 1959, 1960 and 1961 respectively.
Leadership in a girls’ school also comes with great responsibility. Leaders in girls’ schools engender confidence and agency in their peers. They provide other girls with daily role modelling on what it means to be clever, capable young women. By their actions, they encourage leadership expectation in younger girls who grow up seeing and believing that they can and should expect leadership positions throughout life. In no other educational setting do girls have the leadership opportunities and role modelling that they have at a girls’ school.
To those girls who were acknowledged today, I want to say thank you for being wonderful role models and for promoting a message that women can and should aspire to leadership. By basing your leadership on integrity, positive influence and empathy, students will willingly follow you, you will build the capacity of others and you ensure other girls believe they can and should be future leaders, in school, in their communities and in our nation. I would like to wish you every success and all our support as you undertake this very important role in the school.