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Taking charge

Newly created workshop is designed to show people new to leadership roles how to be more effective

By Jessie Moniz

Beverly Daniels remembers well some of the challenges she encountered in her first role as a school principal she made the classic mistake of trying to please everyone.

“I arrived at that school recognising that there was some opposition to me being there,” she said. “The staff were upset to lose the outgoing principal and I felt that they were saying ‘who is this rookie coming in?’”

After a couple of months she realised it was time for her to take charge. It was a wise move.

“To this day I still have teachers who I met from that environment who still hold me in high esteem and have gone on to be leaders in their own right,” she said. “I want to grow people. That has been one of the hallmarks wherever I have been. If a leader does not do that they have failed to some degree.”

In March she hopes to help others new to leadership avoid some of her early pitfalls through a workshop, Emergent Leaders.

It’s targeted mainly at people involved in education, but others new to a leadership role are also welcome.

Ms Daniels has a teacher training certificate from Ottawa Teachers College in Canada, a bachelor’s of science degree in psychology from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in education from Indiana University.

A principal for 13 years, she also worked in the Ministry of Education in a human resources role.

Today she is education officer at Sandys 360 and teaches leadership workshops throughout the community.

“Leadership is leadership,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you are in education. I firmly believe that an institution is only as good as its leader.

“Recently, I saw an interview that had been done with Bermuda insurance executive Brian Duperreault.

“As I read that interview I saw the hallmarks of the idea of a leader that I try to promote.

“First and foremost you need to be someone who has strong skills in communication. You have to be someone who has a genuine care and concern for people.

“If your care for people is not authentic, people see right through it.”

Ms Daniels said if your goal is glory you will ultimately fail.

“There is not a lot of glory in leadership, although there can be some,” she said. “In workshops I usually begin with having leaders examine their values and what they believe in.

“When you get into a leadership role, that is what you lead from. If you haven’t identified that or are still coming to grips with that or are exploring that, then I would suggest that you are not quite ready.”

Whether people are natural born leaders or not is a source for debate.

Ms Daniels believes that some people have more natural ability than others.

Leadership skills can sometimes be honed in the family environment, or brought out through crisis, she said.

The good news is that if you aren’t a natural leader, you can learn to be one, to some extent.

“I believe even those with natural ability need to have their skills enhanced if one is to take leadership seriously,” she said. “Research suggests that you can see leadership in four- and five-year-olds taking charge.

“Being bossy would be a characteristic. Sometimes even bullying is a characteristic. I know that it is a big topic today.

“If you can get to the bully and redirect them you can often see there is that leadership potential.

“You can teach those persons how to influence and impact in a way that is positive.”

She was the youngest in a family of boys which meant she sometimes had to fight her way to the top.

“I wasn’t necessarily a leader in my family,” she said, “but I think competing with the boys gave me the gutsiness and desire to rise.”

She credits the Bermuda Girl Guides with helping her become the leader that she is today. At 15 years old she was chosen to go abroad to a Girl Guides summer camp programme.

“In order to get through the process I had to go in front of this panel,” she said. “My Girl Guide leader said to me, ‘they are going to ask you a lot of questions so you better be ready’, but she never prepared me for what I might be asked.

“Maybe she didn’t know. I remember sitting in front of these people.

“They asked a slew of questions about me, and what I felt about Bermuda, and why I felt this trip would be important to me. Out of my depths came these responses.”

The panel were taken aback by her articulate answers and began talking about her in front of her, praising her performance and expressing surprise that she was not from a private school.

Their reflections on her performance surprised her and ultimately gave her confidence a boost.

“Looking back through my early career I took on a series of small leadership roles that helped me to prepare to be a leader,” she said.

The Ministry of Education first asked her to take on the job of acting principal at a special needs school.

The position was temporary, but it led to her becoming a principal elsewhere.

“Had I not received a call from the Ministry of Education asking me to become the acting principal, I don’t know if I would have gone that way,” she said. “I enjoyed the children.”

To those who desire to be leaders, she warned that it can be extremely lonely at the top, and stressful.

“When your organisation is being assessed it is being assessed on the strength of that leader,” Ms Daniels said. “It is based on the decisions and vision the leader has set.

“From that standpoint you are alone. In the middle of the night when you get that call that there is a challenge within your organisation it is you who has to deal with it.

“You have to make a decision and act. You’d better show up. That is why some people shy away from leadership.”

Ms Daniels’ workshop will be held on March 14 and 15 at Sandys 360 from 6pm to 9pm. The cost is $150.

For more information, or to register, e-mail bdaniels@sandys360.bm or call 234-6195.

Veteran educator Beverly Daniels centre with students from Harrington Sound Primary where she was a school principal for several years.

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Published January 22, 2013 at 8:38 am (Updated January 22, 2013 at 8:37 am)

Taking charge

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