Everything I learned about leadership, I learned in high school.
The first part of my speaking career was spent as a motivational speaker for high school students. I spoke in over 3500 high schools about making the most out of your high school years, growing by sharing your talents instead of constantly comparing your talents to others and by making a positive impact on those around you.
Some of the schools I spoke at were absolutely amazing. The quality of the school wasn’t based of social economics or zip code, the quality of the school was based solely on leadership. Great schools have great leadership. That’s it. I experienced it a thousand times.
If you think that leading your company, sales team or region is challenging, try leading a high school with 2000 students with varying abilities and needs, community expectations to graduate 90+%+ them and the fear of a school shooting in the back of your mind every single day.
The excellent high school principals, who clearly lead the way, had the following in common:
- They lived and lead with closely held core values.
- They had a vision for the school, for the culture and for continuous improvement.
- They expected more from everyone by removing excuses from low performers and obstacles from top performers.
- They were present in the hallways, the classrooms, the cafeteria, the athletic fields, the performing arts centers. They were always visible.
- They were truly dedicated to helping both educators and students grow and achieve.
Two other common actions they all demonstrated and always impressed me were that they were “talkers” and “walkers”.
After my presentation, I could always count on the best high school principals to talk to me about my impressions. “What did you think about our student body? Is there anything we could be doing better? What did you sense about our culture as you were speaking to them?”
Secondly, it happened in almost every case, I could count on the principal to walk me out the front door of the school, to the parking lot and to my car parked in the visitors’ space. They took the time to offer that extra step of hospitality and appreciation.
When is the last time you walked a client or a great customer out to the parking lot? When is the last time you made someone feel valued and appreciated by that extra step which only takes moments but sends a strong message of being truly connected?
My “Nice Bike” metaphor is all about acknowledging, honoring and connecting with others. The best leaders among us truly know how to “Nice Bike!”