Some time ago I received this drawing from a student in Junior School who had taken the time to put pencil to paper to try and portray his Principal – who just happened to be me.
Although it was a beautiful piece of artwork, I was immediately struck by this thought: “Where does this student get his perception of what I do all day?” The two things this thoughtful student had deemed as being important to me as Principal of Cedars were the computer and my coffee mug.
OK, I will admit that I drink a little too much coffee, but this artistic ‘representation’ is definitely not the model of leadership we want to present, or value, at Cedars.
Because a picture ‘tells a thousand words,’ I think I should bring some clarity about the type of leadership we actually do value at Cedars – in case my readers may also have that same impression.
In Matthew 20:26-28 Jesus is talking to several of his disciples about the position of true leadership as they told him how annoyed they were with a mother of two disciples who was asking Jesus to give her sons a place of honour in his Kingdom. These troubled disciples thought they deserved those valued spots, not the other two. Jesus said to them, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
You may not be aware that I didn’t begin my career as a Principal. I have tried to genuinely serve others long before I took on this role, and I will continue to regardless of my position. One of the first jobs I ever had was as a volunteer at the RSPCA. I would go there after university and scoop up the dog waste (poo) in the yard. That’s right, my job was to pick up the poo and I didn’t even get paid for it! My next role was also voluntary. I worked briefly at Taronga Zoo – you guessed it – also scooping up poo, only this time it was a bit more exotic and the scoop to clean up the elephant enclosure was quite a bit larger (thankfully). After that I got a job on a farm, you guessed it, cleaning up cow poo! At least I got paid this time.
I spent a lot of time doing jobs that other people didn’t want to do. I always served my leaders and the vision of the organisation I was working for. It wasn’t the grand gestures or charismatic displays that got me noticed by those who would later promote me, but my willingness to help where needed, to fill a gap, or take responsibility for a project that needed to be done. It was the way that I served that was noticed before I was entrusted to lead.
Our leadership programs at Cedars take the Matthew 20 approach and we try to model this to our students.
It seems to be working.
We have just gone through the process of appointing new School Captains and Student Leaders. Each of these new leaders were able to give examples of where they have been serving in the College over a number of years and what they are doing outside of School with the same attitude. Their vision for the future is all about helping others rather than any ‘visions of grandeur.’ Although people do not always notice this type of servant leadership, it is rewarding and I believe, builds outstanding character.
2017 School Captains
2017 Year 11 Student Leaders
It is our humility and positive attitude towards what God has put in front of us that are important. The ‘small’ things we do every day are often more important than the large ‘events’ we are a part of. It is through service that we gain recognition and trust, not through position.
To prove my point, disputing the perception that I just sit at my desk drinking coffee all day, I thought I would make some grand speeches, tell the students I had important meetings to go to, and made sure I always looked busy. After a while I went back to the same class of the student who had drawn the picture of me, to see if my status had changed at all. As I stepped into the room one of the students said, “I know you, you are the guy that waves to all the cars at pick-up lane!”
At least I am making progress.
Pick up lane