As you Leave Turi – Final Words for the Graduating Class
An except from the Senior School Headmaster’s speech during this year’s Speech Day, where he speaks particularly to the Year 13s who had their graduation ceremony that day. “However, you have all heard me talk previously about the need to take responsibility for our actions. As without responsibility, there can be no credit and no growth. The support of a teacher, or your peers, is important, but it must be tailored to the individual. Some need the safety net close, some need a supporting hand, but all must be self-sufficient as they depart our care. In order to achieve that and then be in a position to lead and assist others, you must understand yourself. God dignifies us with free will, the power to make decisions of our own. Self-knowledge Effective decisions and effective leadership begins with knowing yourself; having a fundamental understanding and appreciation of our own personal values. From self-knowledge, we develop character and integrity. And from character and integrity comes leadership. Buckminster Fuller was a visionary architect and thinker. Depressed and considering suicide, Fuller asked himself some questions that revolutionized his life: ‘What is my job on the planet? What is it that needs doing that I know something about, that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?’ The answers to these questions should inspire us to action. Values and Character Ethos is the Greek word for character. Descended from the same root as the word ethics, it is used to describe the beliefs, principles, values, codes and culture of an organization. It is the ‘way we do things around here’, the unwritten rules, the moral character of a particular group of people. Our values decide our character. Our character decides our value. Values provide the bedrock of belief. But, value-words like integrity, courage, compassion can be flat and generic if just words. The challenge is always to bring them to life, and into the lives of those you interact with. I urge you to reconnect with your values – with your truest, deepest instincts – as an essential building block of character, which is the essence of leadership. And it begins with humility. St Augustine said it best: ‘Lay first the foundation of humility . . . The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.’ Humility allows us to ask a simple question: how can we do this better? Knowing yourself Harvard Business School professor Bill George argues that the essence of a great leader is about ‘being genuine, real and true to who you are’. Being the same in public as you are in private. Which takes us to one of our core values at St Andrew’s – INTEGRITY Integrity comes from the Latin integritas or integer. It means being whole and undivided. It is the ethical ‘accuracy of our actions’. Integrity means that our thoughts and words and deeds are ‘as one’, an alignment in which our core values, purpose, beliefs and behaviors all flow in the same direction. It’s useful to think of integrity not as morality, as many people do, but as workability – it’s about getting stuff done. The end results of trust, belief and respect, are merely the by-products of the fact that when we say something will happen, it actually does. There’s an old story about J. P. Morgan, the banker and philanthropist, who was shown an envelope containing a ‘guaranteed formula for success’. He agreed that if he liked the advice written inside he would pay $25,000 for its contents. Morgan opened the envelope, nodded, and paid. The advice?
- Every morning write a list of the things that need to be done that day.
- Do them.
Honesty = Integrity = Authenticity = Resilience = Performance If we speak with integrity our word becomes our world; a commitment, a declaration of intent. It allows us to speak with optimism and possibility, resilience and determination, decisiveness and authority. It helps us survive any setback. And it helps us begin the long climb back upwards again. With an authentic voice, we have authority. Social footprint As an Old Greek proverb tells us, ‘A society grows great, when old men plant trees whose shade they will never see’. Our social footprint is the impact our life has – or can have – on other lives. It begins with character – a deep respect for our deepest values – and it involves a committed enquiry into our life’s purpose. What do we hold most sacred? What’s our purpose here? What can we pass on, teach? The word character comes from an Ancient Greek word meaning the mark that is left on a coin during its manufacture. Character is also the mark left on you by life, and the mark we leave on life. It’s the impact you make when you’re here, the trace you leave once you’re gone. Character rises out of our values, our purpose, the standards we set ourselves, and the decisions we make under pressure, but it is primarily defined by the contribution we make, the responsibility we take, the leadership we show. John Wooden said, ‘Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.’ The Bible encourages us to “choose life . . . by listening to [God’s] voice,” that is, by choosing to obey his commands. (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20) This offer would be meaningless, even cruel, if we lacked free will. Instead of forcing us to do what he says, God warmly appeals to us: “O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river.”—Isaiah 48:18. Our success or failure is not purely determined by fate. If we want to succeed at an endeavor, we must work hard. “All that your hand finds to do,” says the Bible, “do with your very power.”(Ecclesiastes 9:10) It also says: “The plans of the diligent one surely make for advantage.”—Proverbs 21:5. Take time to get to know yourself, your values. Be honest with yourselves and take responsibility for your actions – as only then will you discover genuine Integrity, authenticity, resilience and levels of performance that allow you to always seek the highest.”