Are you confident enough to be humble?

Sometimes I read or hear something and it sticks. I just cannot shake it and I find myself thinking about it on a walk or mentioning it in conversations. Last week at the Leadership Institute (known in our CAIS world as the LI), in preparation for one of my favourite traditions, I had one of those moments.

We have two relatively new traditions at the LI. One night, affectionately called “The Newbie Night,” includes speeches from two graduates of the LI who have gone on to become Heads. They speak about their first year on the job, and it is an evening of funny moments and lessons learned by Heads who have been groomed within the CAIS family. Every year, I sit back and enjoy their humour, humility, and passion. This year, Sharon Klein of St George’s School in Montreal and Jason Rogers of Rundle Academy in Calgary didn’t disappoint. (Their speeches are already posted here – thanks Jeremy! – and all LI grads who have become Heads are listed here.)

The other night, we hear from two “senior” Heads who have been nominated by their peers and whose influence extends beyond their school and province. It is truly a celebration of the Art of Leadership and over the years, we have heard from some of our CAIS giants, those names you’ve heard and always wanted to meet. (See them all here.) Again, I just love to sit back and watch them in action. I bet, if I really tried, I could remember something from each of them. This year, as anticipated, Hal Hannaford and Claire Sumerlus knocked it out of the park. (Again, watch them here)

I cannot decide which night I prefer – probably best not to choose! – but this year, what really struck me was not something included in the speeches, but something included in the introduction. For “The Seniors Night,” I always collect some remarks from colleagues. It was a letter from Catherine Kirkland, Junior School Director at Royal St George’s College in Toronto, that has captured me. In her letter of support for Hal Hannaford, she wrote:

Hal once said something to me before I became Head of the Junior School at RSGC, and it has been a question I return to often in my career “Are you confident enough to be humble?” Hal’s confidence allows him to lead by influence and not by authority, and his humility gives him the ability to build up those up around him. It’s great to work for Hal, because he always acknowledges your talents, contributions and importance to the school. I’m sure that every student, and certainly every teacher, who has been at Hal’s school could think of a time that Hal made a special effort to single them out, make them feel special or remark on a recent achievement. He makes those around him feel valued and an important part of the community. Hal makes everyone feel they have their own unique relationship with him – quite an accomplishment. Hal was the champion of “relational teaching” – long before it became the new buzz-word in teaching and leading.

I often say that at CAIS, we are in the business of asking good questions. Thanks to the Summer LI, the question that Hal posed to Catherine is now one that we can all consider as we spend the rest of our summer reflecting on the art of leadership.

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