Senior Leadership! Congratulations to the class of 2020
She is only one of an estimated 3.7 million in the US, but history will frame it as an exclusive club. She understands that in her lifetime, there will be plenty of memorable events to celebrate, although you could argue, that few have been more anticipated than the spring of her 18th year. She’s a member of the Class of 2020, she’s my daughter, and this post is for her.
We all strive to be good leaders. Whether you think of yourself as a “leader” or not, does not matter. I assure you there is someone in your sphere of influence who looks to you for leadership. It may be an employee, a manager, a spouse, a child, or just a good friend, but someone looks to you for leadership. For High School Seniors it is typically the teachers and underclassman. And though they didn’t sign up for it, the leadership lens on this year’s seniors will forever be associated with the spring of 2020 and how they responded to this extraordinary time in history.
We have all made a lot of adjustments in the last few months. You’ve probably heard the word “pivot” more in the last 90 days than the previous 5 years. Almost every person and every business has been forced to make some type of adjustment from their old normal to their new. It has been inspiring to watch this Class of 2020 handle all their pivots. They have responded with determination, perseverance, and fortitude to push through and finish their last semester strong. To lead.
Whether you view them as traits, characteristics, and virtues, there are lots of ingredients that make up a good leader. A 2018 Harvard article listed 6 of the most often cited characteristics, in my (somewhat biased) opinion this 2020 Senior Class has shined on each of them.
- Ability to Influence – You have been positive role models for the underclassman. Because so many of you took the hand you were dealt and kept playing, others were motivated to do the same. In the face of uncertainty, your commitment to push forward and earn your diplomas has been inspirational.
- Transparency – Vulnerability is part of this trait. We saw it in your tears and disappointment as it became clear your last semester was going to be permanently interrupted. But even though everything outside of the classroom was ground to halt, you responded with openness and honest communication with your teachers and peers. You moved forward even when it hurt.
- Encourage Risk Taking and Innovation – Wow! Where do you start here? You have been part of the largest shift to remote education in history. You’ve embraced the spirit of “Why isn’t it possible? instead of “It’s not possible!” When some businesses were saying, “We can’t do it that way, it will never work!” You were part of the group already doing it!
- Value Ethics and Integrity – Integrity is consistently listed as one of the most important attributes of a leader. For seniors, it was not only classes that were moved online, but all their finals and AP-Tests were administered that way as well. You were entrusted to follow the rules as if you were in a monitored classroom and you did.
- Act Decisively – You identified things you could control, got focused, and acted. As seniors you found new ways to experience traditional events in unconventional ways. You’ve gotten involved in ways to help your community. Food drives were organized, masks were made, and you helped those in need. You took action, you’ve been resolute and determined.
- Balance Hard Truths with Optimism – There have been a lot of hard truths to deal with over the last few months. Cancelled or delayed graduations, proms, all the senior events that have been impacted. Yet this group of seniors has displayed resilience and optimism that there will be a brighter tomorrow ahead. You’ve reminded us there is always something to be thankful for, there is always a place for gratitude. There is always hope.
Graduations inspire us to dream and think about new beginnings and opportunities. The ending of one chapter, the beginning of another. At a time when business owners and their employees are uncertain about their future, the resilience of this class has been a ray of hope. There are leadership lessons to be learned from this Class of 2020. To all the seniors, thank you and congratulations! We are proud of you! As always, feel free to comment in the space below.
Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach