Written by Science Teacher and Leonhardt Family Teaching Chair Donna Daigle and English Teacher Anne Rubin. Donna and Anne are also members of the Girls' Leadership Project Working Group.
This article first appeared in the May 2015 issue of Columns. Read the full issue here.
The shovels will be in the ground in June as we start construction on the new buildings, but we have already broken ground on similarly inspiring work: the creation and adoption of the Girls’ Leadership Project (GLP) competencies. The competencies were created by the GLP Working Group, which was formed in 2012 and populated by teachers and school professionals working across disciplines and departments. The goal of this group was to create a common language around girls’ leadership, and in this process the competencies were created.
Just as a building requires a framework for successful construction, so, too, does program require similar architectural structure. In this way, the competencies - Vision, Voice, Interpersonal Efficacy, and Gumption - reflect the essential leadership behaviors that students develop while at Miss Hall’s. Briefly stated, Vision is the willingness to live by core values, recognize opportunities, and make long-term plans to achieve goals. Voice is the power to communicate ideas with authenticity and confidence, as well as the instrument by which girls can “connect [their] inner and outer worlds” (Carol Gilligan, In A Different Voice). Interpersonal efficacy is the intersection of empathy, self-awareness, and cultural competency, the ability to navigate diverse contexts with ease and one of the most important indicators for success in college and beyond.1 Gumption is the strength of mind and character to take calculated risks, seek out challenges, and learn and grow from failure. These competencies, while framing a common language for girls’ leadership, also help provide us - and the girls -with a blueprint by which to guide our progress together. Additionally, it is important to note that research indicates that successful leadership development models do not favor one aspect of leadership over another, but rather build and incorporate a “high level of competence” across many areas.2 It is in these many areas that Miss Hall’s students actively engage and develop throughout their time at the School.
The development of the competencies and the evolution of the GLP Working Group was a generative experience: over the course of the last three years we came together over many breakfasts, lunches, and late afternoon meetings to read and share articles about girls’ and women’s leadership, and how they relate to the Miss Hall’s mission and core values. As we read, discussed, and shared ideas, we began noticing a marked change: beginning in spring of 2013, the conversation about leadership began to shift with the publication of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. In that landmark book, Sandberg offers a bold idea: she suggests that women bring their whole selves to work. She writes, “As we strive to be more authentic in our communication, we should also strive to be more authentic in a broader sense. I talk a lot about bringing your whole self to work— something I believe in deeply.”
At MHS, we know a thing or two about authenticity, because we ask girls to bring their whole selves to school. A girl’s “whole self” is as welcome at the lunch table as it is in the chemistry lab or on the softball field. Above all, we honor the experiences, strengths, and insights that a girl brings to her own leadership. Whether girls are leading in a formal capacity or in their own lives, leadership begins by having a relationship with yourself. In our work with girls at MHS, we have made it our mission to guide girls through that process of introspection. We are no longer asking women and girls to work against who they are as they aspire toward leadership, rather, we are asking them to turn up the volume on what comes naturally. When a girl becomes comfortable with her own voice, she feels more open to stretching herself and taking part in her own evolution.
This is an exciting time to be a professional committed to girls’ leadership. The question is no longer if women will lead, but how. At Miss Hall’s, this is something we have always known, because girls at Miss Hall’s lead now. The competencies are the blueprint for how we teach and coach leadership: they provide an in-house metric that will shape and define our academic and student life programs. More importantly, they provide language for a girl to talk about her own leadership and a way to think about how she might develop her skills as she moves through our program. All of this building—the new academic and residential spaces, the additions to our program, and the leadership skills that students practice and develop every day at Miss Hall’s - aligns perfectly with our underlying mission of educating girls for lives of purpose. Indeed, there are many things taking shape on our beautiful campus.