Real Life Leading 40--Leadership Lessons from Duke
I was richly blessed this summer by getting to spend three weeks on the campus of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, helping teach a group of gifted high school students in a class that focused on leadership and international diplomacy. I had a wonderful time, and I learned a lot along the way. Here are a few of the lessons that I want to share with you.
1) Strolling through a garden is good for the soul. Because of where my campus apartment was in relation to our classroom, the quickest route to class each morning was through the Sarah B. Duke Gardens (see pictures here: http://gardens.duke.edu/) . Most mornings, I wandered leisurely through different areas, surrounded by beauty, while listening to praise and worship music. It helped me begin the day by relaxing and seeing how much beauty there was at hand, and it was a great way to prepare for the more difficult task of helping keep around 100 students on task each day. I know must of us don't get to do this all the time, but I would encourage you to find at least a few moments each morning to appreciate the beauty that is around you: dew on the grass (even if the yard is a bit tall, like mine is right now), birds in the trees, the sun rising over the horizon. Beauty is all around us, if we take the time to see it.
2) In leadership, self-awareness is a must. I wrote about this in a guest blog post for Joseph Lalonde a while back (find the article here: https://www.jmlalonde.com/3-steps-self-awareness-leaders/ ), and I found this to be true at Duke as well. One of the focuses of the leadership portion of the class was to help students, many of whom had never done this before, learn to become more aware of their feelings and desires and impulses, with the goal of having greater control over them. If you've read some of my blog posts in the past, you've probably seen one of my Dad's principles that I've shared before: "You can control your emotions, or you can be controlled by them." For many students, this type of thinking, aimed at helping them to have more control over their decision-making, was eye-opening, and it helped me as well. The truth is that we all have the potential to do things that are both great and terrible. What he choose, how we choose, and how we respond to stimuli are the things that will shape our outcomes; so it makes sense for us to begin by being aware of ourselves first (without also becoming self-focused).
3) A great team makes every task easier. I was blessed to be part of a great instructional team at Duke. I learned as much from the instructors as the students did, and I had a great time working with each member of the team. As I was leaving, it dawned on me that, even when the task is difficult (e.g. teaching 100 students for three weeks during the summer, with very little real authority over them in terms of discipline), a great team makes all the difference. Great times can happen by chance, but most of the time they happen by choice: that is, teams choose to be great by working hard to help each other. We picked up each other's slack, we didn't ever blame anyone for shortcomings, and we worked to support each other when we needed it. That was a wonderful experience and lesson to be reminded of, and it's one I hope to continue as I begin my thirteenth year as a classroom teacher this week.
I had an amazing time at Duke and a great summer, and I'm excited to begin a new school year on Thursday! I hope you, the reader, are also excited about whatever the near future holds for you, and I'd love to hear about it!
Action Step: Take 5 minutes today to appreciate some of the "everyday beauty" that is around you, and let it calm your soul.