Last Sunday I was in NYC to speak at a moving but sad event to honor the life of a dear friend, mentor, and former board member, Pearl Kane. Pearl also ran the Klingenstein Center at Columbia for almost 40 years, a position now held by former Holderness colleague Dr. Nicole Furlonge. One of the speakers reminded me of one of Pearl’s mantras, “Leadership is not a title or position but a behavior.”
That mantra is a very Holderness statement because we select our leaders based on four behaviors: initiative, dependability, fairness, and empathy. And congratulations tonight to those of you who were recognized for excelling in those behaviors.
But to all of us who are in positions of leadership or have been elected tonight we need to remember: “leadership is not a title or position; leadership is a behavior.” Leadership is not a gift or entitlement, but needs to be earned every day. We have all seen people with titles who aren’t really leaders.
And for those of you who did not get a leadership position tonight or who are ninth graders, or who are colleagues without titles, remember, “leadership is not a title or position, it is a behavior.” Some of the strongest leaders in this school, students and colleagues have no titles.
Leadership is not a title or position; leadership is a behavior, is an existential axiom. It should be a constant effort from all of us to daily behave honorably and with initiative, dependability, fairness, and empathy. If we all do that, and it is not easy, we will create a culture of leadership that is much greater than any of us.
Finally, I love that quotation because it aligns with our school’s definition of leadership:
Leadership is each individual’s journey to serve and empower others.
Our motto, "For God and Humankind," calls us to be other-centered. After our prayer, we will do our final dismissal, "let us go forth in peace to love and serve." Tonight, above all nights, let us view those lines as a sacred calling for all of us to go out to love others, to serve, to empower, and thus to lead.