Do Leaders Ever Graduate?

by | May 7, 2023

group of happy diverse students in bachelor gowns throwing caps up in the air

May is a much-anticipated graduation month for millions of students throughout the world.  In some ways, graduating from a high school or college is similar to what we experience when we leave one employer and start working for someone new.  There is a clear demarcation between before and after that implies we are moving on to the next level, phase, role or promotion.  

This happens with leadership, too.  From time to time, we experience such a step change in our mindsets, skill sets and/or behaviors it feels like the equivalent of earning a new diploma.  The first time we have to choose who will stay and who will go during a layoff, conduct an in-depth performance appraisal, facilitate a promotion for someone else, or receive a request to become a mentor we may experience similar emotions to graduation (minus the pomp and circumstance.)

Of course, there are many ways motivated leaders can earn a digital badge, certification or college degree related to leadership. 

While celebrating these milestones, it’s important to remember that great leadership is the ongoing process of becoming – more.  

By “more” I mean, more:

  • Rich in self and other awareness
  • Inclusive
  • Equity-minded
  • Authentic
  • Trauma-informed

Notice I didn’t say, more:

  • Wealthy
  • Admired
  • Commanding
  • Cautious
  • Urgent

Recently, I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the California Independent School Business Officers Association (Cal-ISBOA)’s annual conference.  The title of my speech was “Leading Schools to Success The Learn Lead Lift Way,” and meeting with CHRO’s, CFO’s and Facility Managers before and after my keynote I was reminded of just how challenging leadership can be – particularly for school leaders in these roles.   

These folks have the often rather thankless job of managing the needs of at least 13 different stakeholder groups and doing so mostly from behind the scenes with little to no public recognition of the important role they play in a school’s successes or failures.  When we think of great schools, we automatically tend to think about more visible leaders, such as a great teacher or head of school.  

When we think about leadership as influencing others to achieve something not just for our own benefit, it’s easier to recognize that leaders exist and are needed everywhere.   

Now, let’s turn that thought into action!  During the month of May, I invite you to send a brief email to someone in the business office of a school that you are connected to – either somewhere your children attend, or a school you attended – and simply thank them for their service to the school community.  I guarantee they will appreciate it and you will feel good doing it.  

While I was preparing to write my book, Learn Lead Lift:  How To Think, Act, and Inspire Your Way to Greatness I vividly remember thinking if I could just write the book I wish me as a 22 year old graduating college student had read then I would consider Learn Lead Lift to be a great success.  

Now, it’s your turn!  Consider how Learn Lead Lift might be the perfect gift right now for someone you know who is donning a cap and gown or is moving on to their next work or life adventure.  

Click here to gift a copy of Learn Lead Lift to your favorite grad or professional in transition today.  To request a personalized, signed copy of the book,  simply email your receipt to with your message and name of the recipient within 24 hours of ordering.  

For other great graduation gift ideas, check out our Everything DiSC personal assessment solutions and give that special someone the eye-opening gift of self and other awareness.  I guarantee they will thank you for it!

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