A Few Words on Leadership.

A few days ago a got an email from a former student.

(This wasn't just any former student, however. This young lady was my newspaper Editor-in-Chief and was a top-notch student journalist. She is, as far as I know, majoring in journalism at the University of Iowa.)

She was challenged to write a paper on leadership, and...

Well, I think it might be best if you just read our email exchange. Here it goes, with no editing or revising whatsoever:


Hi Ms. Kennon!

Hope everything is going well at WBHS!! I'm emailing you because I am in a Leadership class this semester and I have an assignment called the "Model Leader Interview Paper" that I decided to interview you for! You are definitely someone that has influenced my leadership throughout the years, and so I figured you'd be the perfect person to talk to!

So, the questions to answer are:

1. How do you define leadership?
Leadership is a difficult thing to define - it's a relative term, special to the individual. My definition is likely similar to others: Leadership is a person or group's ability to incite action in others. Of course, leadership can take both positive and negative forms, but it's a great leader that has the ability to use their leadership abilities for the greater good.

2. What is your personal leadership style and philosophy?
I try to lead by positive reinforcement, especially when working with teens or young adults. While it's easy for me to say that I try to lead by example, I think it would be dishonest to say that this is my leadership style. I make mistakes...often! However, my philosophy is to make my mistakes apparent to my students and use them as "teachable moments". Perhaps that makes me unique, or perhaps it simply means I'm human.

3. Who and what has influenced or shaped your values and philosophy of leadership, both positively and negatively?
I had an amazing guidance counselor in high school who told me (quite often) that I had the ability to make a difference, that I was able to impact the actions of others around me. He started me on a path, which was perpetuated in college with one of my journalism instructors. These two people were very different - my guidance counselor was a very caring man with a soft heart, my professor a very serious woman with a fiery streak. She was someone who showed me that women can be powerful in the field of journalism. She taught me how to stand tall and not take shit. God bless her.

4. What have been your biggest successes as a leader, and what do you wish you could have done differently?
This is a very difficult question. Can I really identify my true successes? I mean, I can define a few things I think I did well, but perhaps the key to leadership is knowing that your influence has infiltrated people and events beyond your reach. Yes. I think that's what I'd like to believe.

When I think of what I would like to have done differently, especially as I grow closer to the conclusion of this school year, I surely wish I would have made a stronger connection with some of the young women I teach. I see so many young women who are not confident in academic situations, who act foolishly around young men, or who knowingly make bad decisions - not giving themselves enough worth to make a good choice. Those are the things that make me wish I had reached out a little further. These are the women who will be voting and contributing to society when I am old.

5. How do they incorporate leadership concepts into your personal leadership style?
A lot of my training as a teacher has been in the arena of leadership. These things started me on the path to being a leader in my classroom and school, but I've found these things also transfer into my personal life with family and friends. It's funny how strategies for working with reluctant teenagers can be applied to husbands who resist doing the dishes...

6. What advicve do you have for me as an emerging leader?
Don't take shit. There are many people who are gifted and serve in leadership positions (formally and informally), and there are many others who have done nothing but jump through the right hoops and the right time. Sadly, some of these people also serve in positions of leadership (formally or informally). Use your innate sense of judgement to read people and make meaningful relationships. You'll find yourself a happy, happy young woman.

I know this is kind of lengthy, but I would really appreaciate if you could answer these for me! I really respect you as a leader and I know that you'll have great advice and insight for me!

Thank you so much for doing this, can't wait to hear from you!


I guess six years in the classroom did some good, didn't it. 

Over and out.


  1. You've touched many kids in your time of teaching! So great that you can and do make such a great impact on these kids!

    1. Thanks, Jenn! On occasion I get emails or sweet cards from students or parents - I always save them in a little box in my home office. It's fun to read over them and be reminded of the rewards of my hard work.

  2. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week; I hope you’ll join us again!

    Kathy Shea Mormino

    The Chicken Chick



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