Senior School Leadership

To create an environment in which all senior students want to lead, have the skills to lead, and see the need to lead as a way of celebrating their final years of schooling, we need to implement three stages.

  1. The Leadership Diploma
  2. The Coaching of elected Leaders to be Professional
  3. Senior Leadership Launch

Stage One: The Leadership Diploma

At the beginning of Year 11 (or last two terms of Year 10), every student has the opportunity to earn a ‘Leadership Diploma’, which is awarded only to those students who accumulate 100 leadership points in the two term timeframe. Points are accumulated through participation in a variety of activities that meet the criteria of an authentic leadership experience with some activities worth 5 points and others more.

There are two essential tasks for which the student accumulates points …

1. To identify and construct a ‘Leadership Initiative’ that the student believes the school and the student leadership body should address.

2. Attend Bernie Kelly’s ‘Leadership for Life’ Programme at which everyone will learn that they are a leader, whose ‘actions can make the world they touch a better place’ and the notion that they ‘owe the school a term of service’.

Why ‘The Leadership Diploma’ ?


senior-school-leadership001Schools are notorious for selection processes that often result in student leaders who are ‘nice, good role models and do the right thing’, but who don’t necessarily prove to be ‘best leaders’. The Leadership Diploma demands that you cannot apply for a leadership role without first completing the diploma, which means we are now selecting students who have proven capabilities to create change.

Secondly, given the compulsive nature of the ‘Leadership Diploma’, stats show that 85 % of students will successfully earn their diploma thereby making them eligible for ‘leadership nomination’. At this point, students are now in a different mindset … “If I am eligible and I have just proven myself to be a leader, then why not apply for a leadership position !” Consequently, your nominations for student leadership will double. One school, I worked with in 2012 had 78% of their senior students apply for a leadership position compared to just 34 % in the previous year.
Term One Year 11
Launch of ‘Leadership Diploma’
2 weeks before Term 2 finishes
Writing of Leadership Initiative (worth 5% of Leadership Diploma)
Early in Term 3
Attendance at Bernie Kelly’s ‘Leadership for Life’ Programme
(worth 10% of Leadership Diploma)
Week or fortnight following Bernie Kelly’s ‘Leadership for Life’ Programme
Awarding of Leadership Diplomas to Graduates

Stage Two: The Election process and Coaching Leaders to be Professional


If we want to engage the entire senior grade then it can only be done through professionally well prepared peers. Furthermore they must ‘surprise them’ with their professionalism and their show of strength as a team. I am an advocate of the principle, that before we announce the titles of school captains, vice-captains etc, we work the elected student leadership body as a team, and we inspire them to plan their entire leadership term. Part of their planning is to identify worthwhile ‘Leadership Projects’ that will attract the participation of their peers. These they select from the ‘Leadership Initiatives’ drawn up by their peers when they were completing their ‘Leadership Diploma’ !

Mid Term 3
Election of Student Leadership Team, but only Leadership Diploma Graduates may apply. (Names of School Captains or Leadership Positions are withheld for one month.)
Late Term 3 and if necessary into Sept /Oct School Holidays
Coaching of Student Leadership Team without School Captains or Leadership Titles allocated. The purpose is to create a ‘leadership family’ before we create a Leadership Hierarchy. To create that feeling of responsibility to each other.
· How to lead, engage your peers and avoid doing it all yourself.
· Managing stress and coping with the pressures of Year 12
· The art of impromptu speaking. Never getting caught out with nothing to say.
· The superb ‘vote of thanks’ !
· How to plan an inspiring 10 minute presentation in just 20 minutes !
· How to chair meetings ?
· Why venue set up and where committee members sit is crucial !
· Why consensus is almost ‘dead’ ?
· Leadership that listens, suggest possibilities and creates momentum.
· Reading thru and selecting best potential projects offered by peer group as final act of their Leadership Diploma
· Creating the Leadership Booklet of draft projects to be presented to their peers at ‘Senior Leadership Launch’.
· Selecting three leadership themes for your grade to consider.
· Your Leadership song ? Selecting three leadership songs for your grade to consider.

Stage Three: Celebrate through Leadership – Senior Leadership Launch

It’s all about ‘celebration’, and that’s what the ‘Senior Leadership Launch’ is all about. Just imagine the entire process conducted and delivered by your elected student body, who professionally stand in front of their peers with a comprehensive plan that announces … ‘we have arrived … this year we are the seniors and we are here to make a difference … and through our leadership and the things we do together, we will celebrate our many years of schooling together … we will celebrate us.’

So what happens to students who applied, but didn’t win a leadership position ?


Yes they were initially disappointed, but didn’t they receive a very pleasant surprise when their elected leaders presented their ‘leadership initiative’ that they submitted in their ‘Leadership Diploma’ as part of the overall plan. Disappointment quickly turns to engagement as students recognise that their projects have been chosen and they have the opportunity to lead the execution of the project. All students join ‘Project Groups’ at the Senior Leadership Launch, and 75 % of them will see it through, thereby supporting the notion, that ‘every child deserves to know they can make a difference before they leave school because their school gave them the opportunity to do so’ ! This is leadership in action that makes the world they touch a better place !!

Early Term 4
Announcement of Specific Leadership Positions and Badges e.g. School Captains, Vice Captains
Week 2 or 3 of Term 3
‘The Celebration of Us – Senior Leadership Launch’ by the professionally trained Senior Leadership Team to their peers which asks every student to join a project team, and attend their first project meeting THAT DAY.
Week following Senior Leadership Launch
2nd Project Meeting – within the week of launch.

The Final Benefit

So why is it that students are buying into this process and seeking the desire to lead. I believe it is primarily because we change their paradigm. The journey you have just read … The journey of leadership …. Adding value and creating beneficial change … is not only a way of celebrating 12 years of ‘hard slog’ education, but it is the foundation for a ‘meaningful life’. Many people see the successful life but not all of those who are credited with success also find meaning. On the other hand it is not possible to live a meaningful existence and not be deemed successful. As Mother Teresa once said, “We are not put upon this Earth to be successful, we are put upon this Earth to be Faithful … Faithful to our dreams, our possibilities and our calling … and for those who follow that meaningful path, they are the ones that others deem successful”. Leadership is everyone’s subject !