At Teachers’ Convention, I attended a lecture by Cassie Campbell on leadership. Campbell is one of Canada’s most decorated female hockey players.

In more than 20 years of attending the convention, this was the first time I went to the same session twice in the same day. And I learned more the second time than I did the first. Everything Campbell said about her hockey career has practical application to our lives as teachers on Hutterite Colonies.

Cassie Campbell won five gold medals at the World Hockey Championships; at the Olympics, she won a bronze medal in 1998 and Gold in 2002 and 2006. But even a non-hockey fan would have benefitted from Cassie’s presentation. (However, as a hockey fan, it was even more interesting when she shared some behind-the-scenes experiences that helped her become the first female hockey player inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.)

Before beginning her presentation, Campbell said that we’re all born with the capacity to be leaders. And the most important trait of great leaders is that they’re consistent.

Cassie Campbell’s Seven Principles of Leadership

1. Learn from Challenges

Campbell was the Team Canada captain at the 2005 World Hockey Championship.  Because there was an NHL lockout that season, a great deal of media attention was paid to the Women’s World Hockey Championship. In round-robin play, Canada’s record was 3-0, and they outscored their opponents 35-0. In the semifinals, Canada defeated Finland 3-0. The gold medal showdown was between Canada and the United States. The Americans won the game (and the World Championship gold) 1-0 in a shootout.

Through the entire tournament, Canada let up on only one goal—but it was the goal that “lost the gold medal for Canada.”

When the Women’s Hockey Team arrived in Toronto they were mobbed by reporters. One reporter showed Campell her picture on the cover of the Toronto Star (a picture she described as “the ugliest picture ever taken” of her). She wasn’t amused when she phoned her husband in Calgary only to find that her picture was also on the cover of the Calgary Sun—and, presumably, other newspapers across the entire country.

Campbell knew that the 2006 Winter Olympics would be her last tournament. So she took the front-page picture and put it in her wallet—for the next year, when training and practice became difficult, Campbell took out the picture to remind herself that she did not want to come in in second place again.

It would have been understandable had Campbell wanted to hide from the 2005 defeat. However, Campbell says, “Feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t allow you to learn from a challenge.”

2. Leaders Come Out of Their Comfort Zones

We all like to practice what we’re good at. However, meeting new challenges and facing change is difficult for all of us.

In 2001, as the team began preparing for the 2002 Olympics, they went to an army base where Canadian soldiers were preparing to go to Bosnia. They watched in admiration as the soldiers went through a difficult obstacle course. When the soldiers were done, the hockey team was invited to try the obstacle course—not one of the players could finish the obstacle course.

There were, however, three or four members of the hockey team who didn’t even try to run the course. When the women’s hockey team for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics was chosen, not one of the obstacle course “skippers” made the team. It wasn’t because they chose to skip the obstacle course 10 months earlier—more likely, it was that, as individuals, they weren’t willing to go out of their comfort zone and try something new to push themselves to a higher level.

In 2006, Campbell became the first female to provide colour commentary on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada. She was in Toronto for the game when Harry Neale was unable to get through a blizzard. Doing colour commentary was a comfort-zone stretch for her. With only a few hours’ notice, she phoned her husband for advice. His advice rings true for all of us as our comfort zones are pushed: “You may never get the opportunity to do this again.”

3. Remember to Have Fun and Build Trust

As the Women’s team prepared for the 2006 Olympics, some of their most important work was done off the ice. The team did things fun together outside of hockey. Campbell feels that the more you know someone, the more you are able to trust them.

4. Effective Leaders Know How to be Contributors and Provide Encouragement by Saying “Thanks”

As the team was preparing for the Olympics, Campbell felt like she wasn’t contributing because she wasn’t scoring. Her coach disagreed, and pointed out that Cassie was first on the forecheck and first on the backcheck. As team captain, she was contributing in a different, but important, way to the team’s success.

As the team began final preparation for the 2006 Olympics, Campbell, as the team captain, held a special day to celebrate and thank their defensemen. The celebration included special T-shirts and was an off-ice thank you as well as recognition that team members were doing their part in building a gold-medal team.

5. Success Comes Only from Hard Work 

Preparation is a fancy word for “hard work.” Part of the team’s preparation for the 2006 Olympics was to play nearly 50 games. Players made many sacrifices long before the Olympic Games began.

One of the best ways to combat pressure is hard work. No matter what the field, we should know that hard work is required to achieve excellence. Don’t apologize or feel bad that you’re working hard towards your goals.

6. Not Ashamed of Excellence

Don’t be ashamed of achieving excellence—don’t be embarrassed because you have mastered difficult material.

You can be the best at doing something. We have different talents; this is a given. Why not develop and improve those talents? It’s a good thing. A hockey team doesn’t have 18 players with all the same skills; a championship team needs players with various talents.

As the Canadian women prepared for the Olympics, they had 46 wins and only two losses. They weren’t embarrassed by their success. While they knew not to be over-confident, being excellent at their work was nothing to be ashamed of.

7. Effective Communication and the Need to Listen

Effective organizations and teams have leaders who will listen. Communication starts at the top of any organization (or family) and works its way down. The attitude of listening and learning from each other is exemplified by three points:

  1. When you make a mistake, eat crow while it’s young. None of us are perfect. When we make mistakes, admitting it builds the team bond, while ignoring the problem will eventually build internal conflict.
  2. There is no entitlement—no matter who you are. Campbell won numerous gold medals for Canada, but that didn’t entitle her to special treatment as the team prepared for further competitions. An attitude of entitlement will eventually lead to a poor work ethic.
  3. Spend less time assigning blame and more time solving the problem. No matter what organization we’re a part of, problems will come up. When we focus our energy on assigning blame, we’re not using it to solve the issues at hand.

A few weeks after Campbell presented her workshop on leadership, five colony teachers got together to discuss her presentation. As teachers on colony schools, we talked about how we can apply these principles to our teaching and into the lives of our students.

Following are notes and comments that came up in our discussion. Some of these notes are actually open-ended questions. Four years after I initially wrote this article, I re-read it. Some of my ideas and insights are different than they were four years ago, so many of these comments are open-ended as well, leaving teacher to find their own personal applications.

Teaching Consistent Leadership on a Colony School

(Based on Cassie Campbell’s Seven Principles of Leadership)

1. Learn from Challenges

  • If we talk about or set this example, our students will learn how to face their own personal challenges.
  • Some challenges are easy to identify—others are internal. This applies equally to academic and non-academic issues in school.
  • Feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t allow you to learn from a challenge.
  • Our colony students will run a large farm and raise a family someday. The world we’re preparing them for will be full of challenges.

2. Come out of Your Comfort Zone

  • Change is difficult for all of us.
  • What happens to students when they face material that pushes them out of their comfort zones? How can teachers model how to push our personal comfort zones?
  • When we go against traditions, it’s hard, whether it be a teacher’s tradition or what may appear to be a colony tradition.
  • Just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly stupid.
  • Einstein says, “Success is elusive. Character is something people remember.” Sports (and life) fit this quote.
  • Stephen Covey asked us to ponder what we want people to say about us at our funerals. So live your life accordingly.
  • Ask students what they would like said about them on their report cards. In reality, students write their own report cards by their choices. There may be cases where this doesn’t fully apply to academic marks.  However, it always applies to character (and behaviour).

3. Remember to Have Fun and Build Trust

  • Trust is built day-by-day. We learn how to react to situations.
  • Apologize when you make a mistake. Because we’re human, we’ll make many of them.
  • What kind of school are we trying to create? What tone do we want to build? Yes, the students must know who’s boss. We can do that, however, by building trust and creating a positive environment.

4. Be a Contributor and Provide Encouragement by Saying Thank You.

  • If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
  • Campbell said “thank you” to the defenseman from the team. When do we say thank you to our students for their consistent hard work?
  • More work gets done when people aren’t talking. Talking spreads like wildfire in a classroom.

5. Success Comes only from Hard Work. Prepare, Work Hard, and Achieve Excellence.

  • Our expectation is that students will work hard. Work might be a four-letter word to them, but working hard means you can achieve hard work.
  • Where does work ethic come from, and how do we teach it?

6. Not Ashamed of Excellence

  • Don’t be ashamed of achieving excellence. Don’t be embarrassed because you’ve mastered difficult material. When students get high marks, celebrate. Don’t let academic successes be hidden in the shadows just because not everyone is at that level. As we celebrate students’ academic successes, everyone will move forward.
  • Celebrate success in small things, such as chapter tests or a great answer or insight.
  • Create a school environment where student academic successes are celebrated.
  • You can be the best at doing something. We all have different talents—this is a given. So why not develop and improve those talents? A hockey team doesn’t have 18 players with all the same skills—a championship team needs players with various talents.
  • It’s easy for students to “dumb up.” Some students will try to do the least they can to get by. And the older they get, the more likely this is to occur, for boys in particular (in public schools and colony schools). Boys often believe academic excellence isn’t the way to popularity. Peer pressure says to not excel and outshine peers. But we can celebrate student achievement in many ways without belittling other class members.

7. Effective Communication and the Need to Listen

  • Listening, according to Covey, is the first habit of effective people.
  • Listening and hearing are two different things.
  • Ask your students to listen in English. They’re in English school so they can excel in English because they’ll need it in the rest of their life.
  • Etiquette is hard to understand when the world around us is changing all the time.
  • We provide English education for the world our students will have to deal with.

7+1. What does the Teacher Expect?

  • What do we expect from our students? Do we expect more on Monday than on Friday? If we expect less work on Friday, we’ll get less work on Friday.
  • Teachers’ expectations drive the classroom. In the end (and in the beginning), teachers model the type of leadership they want in colony schools.

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