More Insight About "Proven Leadership"

In my role as Director of Operations here at BRIGHT New Leaders for Ohio Schools, I have had the privilege of talking with hundreds of aspiring BRIGHT Fellows. Through those conversations, I have gained an understanding of their issues and concerns as they explore the program. Since many topics fall into broad categories, today I’m kicking off a series of blog posts focused on answering the most frequently asked questions.

We’ll start with an issue that has emerged to the forefront of many prospective BRIGHT Fellows’ minds: How do you define “proven leadership skills”?

Our inaugural class of BRIGHT Fellows demonstrates how qualified applicants come from diverse backgrounds and professions. Despite this diversity, they share a passion for helping Ohio children in high-poverty communities – and some specific leadership traits, including proven ability to:

  • Inspire others to achieve their full potential
  • Gain people's trust and commitment to follow your leadership vision
  • Make tough decisions and take action in complex situations
  • Build and lead a high-performance team
  • Lead change by encouraging diversity, fostering innovation and maintaining a high tolerance for uncertainty, ambiguity and risk
  • Achieve successful results in prior professional roles

This leadership acumen may have been expressed in many settings. There is no specific job title or college degree that ensures an applicant has these core competencies. To provide more insights, here are some examples of the type of people who embody “the right stuff:”

Perhaps you are a teacher. In addition to leading a classroom of children each day, your principal has asked you to take the lead on projects that enhance relationships with parents or the community at large. You want to make an impact beyond your individual classroom.

Perhaps you are a fast-rising executive or entrepreneur. You know how a high-performance organization must function. You’re looking ahead to the perks and privileges of success, but in the back of your mind you’re asking “How can I use my skills to make a real difference in the lives of others?”

Perhaps you work for a nonprofit or philanthropic organization, then spend your evenings mentoring at-risk youth and serving on a board or committee. You have committed yourself to a life as a servant leader and you want to put that passion to work to help the kids who need you the most.

Perhaps you’ve served your country in the military. You know what it means to have a purpose greater than yourself. You have seen strong leaders in action – and you understand the power of a team. You have always had a passion for helping children succeed, and you want to put everything you have learned to work toward that cause.

Perhaps you are a public servant, working in federal, state or local government. You have dedicated your career to advancing policies that reduce poverty and close achievement gaps. But you hunger to work on the frontlines where you can directly impact students’ lives.

The bottom line: “Proven leadership” is highly individualized. It’s likely that throughout your life, you either naturally assumed the leader role or were placed there by consensus. You expect much of yourself – and that attracts the right types of people to help support your team.

I hope this helps clarify the type of people we are seeking for our second cohort of BRIGHT Fellows. If this sounds like you, I encourage you to apply.

In the weeks ahead, I will address more questions and concerns of BRIGHT aspirants. So, what questions can I answer for you?