Leadership Lessons from Recipients of Gratitude

Around this time of year, I provide staff a short questionnaire to gauge their ideas on teaching assignments for next year. At the end of the survey, there is one unique request:

“Name a staff member you are grateful for this year. This can be someone that helped you, mentored you, or was just a great teammate.”

After collecting the surveys, I pick a day during a long break (like Spring Break) and commit to writing letters to each recipient of gratitude to quote the sender(s) and thank them for their service. It’s a labor of love, as it takes all day (even with the help cutting/pasting). This year, 85 people will receive letters with words assembled by me, but given meaning by their colleagues.  In more than one way, each recipient shows leadership at our school through their work with colleagues because they serve others.

The letters illuminate a few lessons in leadership:

  • A leadership “title” isn’t necessary in order to be considered a leader.
  • Leadership is helping make life/work/circumstance better for others.
  • Top traits of those we are most grateful for?  Always there when needed (presence and accessibility) and a good listener.

In the hectic pace of working in schools, it is easy to overvalue efficiency and content knowledge.  In the end, the thing our peers need most is our attention and genuine care.  The attitude we choose and bring to our peers overshadows everything we might know about being good at our jobs.

How much we care means more than how much we know.


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