A high school English teacher saw that Simon T. Bailey was a diamond in the rough. She encouraged the teenager to get involved with public speaking. “I owe everything that I am to that public school teacher,” Bailey said. “I am here because she saw something I didn’t see.”
The inspirational speaker, author, and former leader of the Disney Institute was the keynote speaker at the final general session at NSBA’s annual conference in New Orleans April 7.
Bailey, who’s written several books on the concept of brilliance, uses the term as a metaphor for the genius and talent we all possess that gets buried under layers of boredom and conformity.
School board members have a role to play in uncovering their own brilliance (Bailey addressed the audience as “oh brilliant ones” several times) but also in helping to uncover the brilliance in their employees and their students.
“I discovered brilliance is released in an environment where people are celebrated rather than tolerated,” he said. “It invites me to be a vitamin, not an aspirin – to give that something extra.”
One way to uncover leadership brilliance is to be a “hope pusher,” he said. “We know what’s best for kids – kids are our customers; they are our future. We live in the greatest country in the world. In the DNA of the soil of America is hope. Anything and everything that exists on the face of the earth came as the result of hope.”
Bailey encouraged the audience to change the way they think about their roles as school leaders. “What needs to shift in us is not just thinking about leadership, but thinking about ‘leader shift.’ As we have moved from point and click world to touch and swipe, are we looking for broadband results using dial-up methods? What are we going to do to create a ‘leader shift’?”
Before addressing this task, he says, everyone should commit to taking 15 minutes a day for themselves, to mediate, stretch, and set an intention about the kind of leader they want to be.
He also encouraged board members to consider their relationships with other board members and how that affects leadership work.
“The next board meeting, before you start on agenda, take a moment and go around the table and tell each person what you appreciate about them,” he said. “Find one positive thing about each board member. The next time you have an intense discussion, look at them through the eyes of what you appreciate about them because then you are hugging them with your words.”
School leaders should tell themselves that they are the shift that their schools and their communities have been waiting for.
“You are the answer,” he said. “When you come together, you become the ‘brillianteer,’ polishing and shaping diamonds in the rough, so they shine from the inside out. That’s the real business of education. You are in the diamond mine business.”