Leadership is a dynamic concept, one that evolves and adapts to the changing needs of a community. It is especially crucial within school, where young leaders emerge and influence the growth and well-being of their peers. Last Friday, the Mount Vernon Junior Prefects gathered for a half-day Leadership retreat, a transformative experience that explored a range of leadership styles and their potential impact on the Middle School community.

Unpacking Leadership Styles

Guided by David Ayers, Dean of Student Life in the Middle School, the retreat aimed to unravel the intricacies of leadership and inspire purpose and service. Participants delved into various leadership styles, each with its own unique approach and characteristics. Here’s a glimpse of these styles:

  • Coach Leadership: Recognizes strengths and weaknesses, helps individuals set goals, and provides constructive feedback.
  • Visionary Leadership: Manages through inspiration and confidence, painting a compelling vision for the team.
  • Servant Leadership: Focuses on enhancing the fulfillment of team members, placing their well-being at the forefront.
  • Autocratic or Authoritarian Leadership: Makes decisions with minimal input from others, maintaining a dominant role in leadership.
  • Laissez-faire or Hands-Off Leadership: Delegates tasks and offers minimal supervision, allowing autonomy and independence.
  • Democratic Leadership: Values the opinions of others, fostering collaboration and consensus.
  • Pacesetter Leadership: Sets high standards and emphasizes performance excellence.
  • Bureaucratic Leadership: Follows a strict hierarchy and expects adherence to established procedures and protocols.

The Marshmallow Challenge: Building Towers and Teams

The practical aspect of the retreat involved the Marshmallow Challenge, a hands-on activity that required teams to build towers using marshmallows and spaghetti. The central lesson learned was drawn from Tom Wujec’s Ted Talk: “Build A Tower Build A Team.” It underscored the need to bring all senses into a task and apply the best thinking, feeling, and doing to address the challenge at hand.

The Marshmallow Challenge promoted shared experiences and a common language, providing a perfect analogy for the complexities and creativity that come with leadership.

Prefect Norms: A Blueprint for Leadership

During the retreat, a set of Prefect Norms was established to guide the Junior Prefects in their leadership roles:

  • Give Everyone a Chance to Communicate: Encourage open dialogue and ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.
  • Respect One Another: Foster an environment of respect and inclusivity.
  • Manage Your Time and Communicate: Effective time management and communication are keys to successful leadership.
  • Be Responsive: Be attentive and responsive to the needs and concerns of the community.
  • Have Fun: Embrace a positive and enjoyable approach to leadership.
  • Give It Your All: Commit wholeheartedly to your leadership responsibilities.
  • Set a Good Example at MV and in the Community: Lead by example, both within the school and in the broader community.

Insights from Junior Prefects

As a result of the retreat, the Junior Prefects collaborated on key points that will shape their leadership journey:

  • Using Time Wisely: Effective time management emerged as a critical factor for successful leadership.
  • Inclusivity: The importance of bridging the gap and ensuring that all students, not just Junior Prefects, have the opportunity to be leaders was highlighted.
  • Impact on the Middle School: Students discussed the impact they can have within the Middle School and the broader school community.
  • Yearly Service Projects: The Prefects explored ways to contribute positively to their school through service projects.
  • Supporting Everyone in the Middle School: Initiatives such as the snack shack, tutoring, and social events were considered as avenues for support.
  • Serving Their Mantras: The students pondered how they could best embody their school’s mantras in their leadership roles.

Voices of the Junior Prefects

Thanks to Ms. Ashley Tabor, Middle School Floating Faculty member, for capturing some quotes from the Junior Prefects reflecting on their role within the team:

  • Smith Andres: “I’m proud to be able to help the students and teachers in the Middle School.”
  • Mamie Bowen: “I am happy to give back to the School in other ways than one.”
  • Elle O’Neal: “I can be a leader and have integrity.”
  • Oliver Johnston: “You matter!”
  • Helen Chapman: “It’s great you can show yourself to be a leader.”

The Junior Prefects’ Leadership Retreat of 2023 was an enriching experience that empowered young leaders to embrace a variety of leadership styles and norms. These students, through their commitment and passion, are set to make a meaningful and lasting impact on the Middle School community and beyond. Their journey is a testament to the ever-evolving nature of leadership and the endless possibilities it holds for positive change.