The Right Amount of Bold

Calligraphy and artwork by Jenna Mugele

A colleague of mine recently said that a Head of School had to have “the right amount of bold.” This has resonated with me since I heard it, and like a memorable song lyric, I cannot get it out of my head. I am pretty sure he was not using the definition of having a strong or vivid appearance (although, that is definitely another story!). I am certain he meant the definition to take risks while being both confident and courageous. 

As Dorothy said to the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz: You have plenty of courage, I am sure. All you need is confidence in yourself. Before becoming a Head of School, I knew that leadership and communication skills were integral criteria; I did not realize, nor could I have ever imagined, the importance of courage as so necessary for serving in this role. I never saw the word listed anywhere in the position description; yet, serving as Head during this unprecedented and uncertain moment in world history, I now know courageous people must be sought to lead schools.

Courage is the ability to do something that frightens you, or to show strength in the face of a crisis. COVID-19 has brought a singular crisis to our doorstep. While I was not quite prepared for something of this magnitude, the courage and confidence that I could lead a school amid uncertainty, fear, and anxiousness was certainly tested. 

So, is there a right amount of bold? Or, must leaders just be bold. This essential question has been nagging me since I heard the phrase. I have decided that yes, there is a right amount of bold. Balancing boldness with empathy and kindness is the best recipe.

Maya Angelou said: One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest. I have found this to be especially true in the past few months. Courage or boldness is the key ingredient that helps me prepare each day to lead a learning community in a consistent and thoughtful way, even when surprises occur, like the shift to distance learning in the midst of a global health crisis. Courage has become the voice in my head, but it most certainly must partner with my heart, to help me find the right amount of bold.

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