Leadership Lessons from Paul Kitchen and Rodger Wright

There were many great moments at last week’s CAIS Heads and Chairs Conference. All of our resources are posted here (for members only) and the Art of Leadership talk, presented by Hal Hannaford to the new Heads and Chairs, is a must watch here. The Program Committee – Gary O’Meara, Anne Wachter, and Blayne Addley – chose an important theme: Understanding the 21st Century Learner: What they need from us. I try to avoid duplication, so I will not provide you with an overview of the program highlights because Barry Hughes beat me to it – I recommend you read his Headlines blog here.

I want to share my favourite part of the program.

The retirement speeches are always one of the most inspirational events in our association. We have had some incredible leaders running our schools, and when they retire, we need to listen. This year we honoured five – Dorothy Byers, Peter Harding, Geoff Dowd, Paul Kitchen, and Rodger Wright. Now if you know these people, you already know that they are all amazing individuals. Collectively, they represent years – and years! – of history, and therefore, wisdom.

The way the program runs is this – one Head honours a retiring Head, then the retiring Head says a few words. When we get the film ready, you have to watch everyone in action (and a quick shout out to Geoff Dowd who made me laugh and laugh!)

But this year, something very different happened. Two of the Heads – Rodger and Paul – have known each other since university. So they asked to recognize each other. Rather than a current photo of them in the slide show, they chose the photo below, taken on their graduation day from the University of Toronto. Instead of saying a few words, they chose to lead the room in song, and I captured a bit of it in the video below. And then they broke all rules and said a few nice things about me and CAIS.

Now think about that for a moment – these two men have lead schools longer than anyone else, and on their big night with their colleagues, they said nothing about themselves.   Not a word. They focused entirely on others.

So on a Sunday morning in Vancouver, before beginning the accreditation of West Point Grey, I find myself thinking about what I would say about them:

Rodger and Paul stand out in a few ways: Both have taken on leadership roles with CAIS, which means that on top of their jobs, they also volunteer for the national organization so I have had the honour of working with them and getting to know them. They make a real effort to go way beyond. Both notice details – Rodger always writes a note after I do something. Paul always calls or texts. And I mean every single time.

For the past ten years, these two men have taught me many important leadership lessons (and here are ten of them in no particular order):

  1. Make people a priority.
  2. Take the time to say thank you. More than that, provide detail on what was done well and why you are grateful.
  3. Challenge privately and praise publicly. Do both and do both often.
  4. Maintain a sense of humour.
  5. Exercise.
  6. Make family a priority.
  7. Always think about what could be better. Then go for it. (If you haven’t seen the revised campuses of Collingwood and RNS, make the trip. These men have created beautiful places for learning and building community)
  8. Know the students. Really know them and have fun with them.
  9. Never take yourself too seriously.
  10. Work harder than everyone around you. And love every minute.

It almost feels superficial making this list, but these guys do this!  All of these things!  And all of the time! They are one of the highlights of my career, and I cannot thank them enough.

1-20150930100707156_0001 IMG_4266