Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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Curiosity question: Since Sawyer is 17, I know that she is too old to be a camper at Heart O' the Hills this summer, but is she planning to be a Heart-Lite?


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Where have the years gone?! It seems like only yesterday that we had to convince them to let her attend when she was "almost six" and now she's old enough to be an assistant counselor.


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True, but that does not answer my question.


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She submitted the application and a phone interview has been scheduled. But what prompted your question?


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I received an email from them describing their new leadership team, including some of this summer's counselors, and I thought about the great resume value for those individuals.


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That's not why Sawyer's doing it. She just loves camp – the activities and the friends she's made, especially the "little ones" that she got to be "big sister" to. From the very beginning, she's always talked about hoping to be a counselor one day.


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I have always been impressed by her ability – and passion – to teach and to mentor, whether at camp, at volleyball, or with the Special Olympics team. And, even though I only attend a few volleyball games each year, her leadership skills are very obvious. No wonder she has been named team captain the last two years.


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Funny you say that, as other parents have commented to me about that, too. I know that as her mom I'm biased, but I'm so proud of her this year. Not only is she "playing up" and on the team for 18-year-olds and developing her technical skills, but she's really excelling at strategic thinking and team-building.


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From what you have told me, she is extremely dependable and her teammates trust and rely on her. That is critical. As are the ability to communicate and resolve conflict.


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She seems to have all those traits, although I can't take any credit for them. She must have been born that way. Not to mention, she didn't inherit her athletic skills from me, either.


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I do not have the time for a nature versus nurture conversation, but hard work and focused efforts can go a long way.


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Maybe in terms of athletics, but I think being a leader is something you're naturally born to be or not.


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I disagree. I think it is easier to learn to be a good leader than to be a good athlete.


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Then explain why I was more of a natural at golf than you, but you ended up a better golfer.


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Because I needed it to advance my career. So, I took lessons and worked at it. Plus, I am much more competitive than you.


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Now there's an understatement. But you're definitely a natural leader.


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I have to disagree again. After business school, I did well in positions where I worked independently. I could analyze any situation, spit out a bunch of ideas and suggestions, and get them implemented. But, then I wanted to move to the next assignment. Unfortunately, rather than using me as in-house consultant, I was promoted into management.


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Wasn't that a good thing?


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Except that I was totally unprepared.


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So, what did you do?


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I looked around the company and found senior management that I admired and respected. Then, I emulated their style and approach.


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Are you saying that you pretended to be someone you weren't?


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Have you never heard the adage, "Fake it until you make it?" There is actually science supporting the concept, but the interesting part is that, along the way, I learned the difference between management and leadership.


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There's a difference?


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Managing is telling people what to do, how to do it, and then expecting them to do it. Leading is showing by example. Would you rather follow someone or "obey" them? I witnessed that the true leaders were open to ideas, they were patient and empathetic, and they provided timely communication, effective feedback, and positive reinforcement. All powerful traits that can be learned.


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Well, I have to tell you, based on your description, most of the volleyball coaches I've seen over the years have been managers, not leaders.


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I would be interested to know if that is a function of the level of the team. Is there a difference in coaching style when you get to the best nationally ranked club teams? What about at the collegiate level?


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Good questions. I'd guess having better players helps, too.


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Yes, but even with "better" employees, just demanding them to "do better" will not get the same result as inspiring them to do so. Funny thing is that I was just trying to do my job better, but by helping them do their jobs better, we all benefited.


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Well, it sounds like Sawyer's leadership skills will one day be invaluable in the workplace. But I'd love to know where she learned them.


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Probably from you.


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Seriously? I find it very hard to believe that you think of me as a leader.


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Do you demand things of the girls? Or, do you ask and then take the time to explain why? Do you follow through on the expectations and rules you have set? Do you take responsibility for your actions and expect them to do the same? Do you provide them with positive feedback or only just find fault? Even when you think you are right, are you willing to listen not only to their perspective, but also their ideas and suggestions? Are you willing to admit when you are wrong? Shall I continue?


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No! You made your point. I guess I just see these as good mom skills, not leadership traits.


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But, it is not an either-or situation. Those same traits can be used to be successful at home, at work, even as a volunteer. Think about the parents who are part of the PTA or who are little league coaches. Leadership skills are transferable. And, definitely can be learned, and taught.


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Wow, I never realized there are so many similarities between leadership and parenting. But I can see where they're each both challenging, yet highly rewarding.


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Agree, but I would venture to guess that parenting is much more difficult.


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Now, that I was never expecting.


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Whatever.

Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

Photo by nycshooter on iStock


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This past weekend, I noticed a bunch of flags on my street and wondered why since July 4th is still almost a month away. But this morning, I learned that today's Flag Day.


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Well, for someone who likes to decorate for the holidays, I would have thought you would have known all about it.


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I've heard of it, but I never really thought much about it, let alone when it is. I knew it had to do with the American flag, but it surprised me that it has nothing to do with Betsy Ross, which legend has made the first flag, although it seems there's no evidence to support that.


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If you want an interesting "story", read about why the American flag is called Old Glory. Regardless, the American flag, like all flags, communicates a message.


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I know you like to connect odd dots, but only you would see a connection between flags and communications.
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Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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I can't believe that Sawyer's graduated from high school and will be off to college in a few months. It's so bittersweet. Especially as it seems like only yesterday you were bringing me dinner in the hospital the day she was born – it was wedding soup from my favorite Italian restaurant.


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Well, since that has now become one of her favorite restaurants, that is where we should go to celebrate the start of her exciting new journey.


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Exciting is an understatement. As soon as she finished her Zoom session with the orientation team at Belmont University, she came downstairs and talked a mile a minute about all the incredible course offerings, and before I knew it, she opened her laptop and was going through everything with me.


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When she showed it to me, I was impressed by the range of courses available, and it made me want to go back to college. But, I was most impressed by her enthusiasm and commitment to opening herself up to opportunities that she might not have previously considered.


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I know! For years, starting when we taught at KIPP Houston High School, you've told students that college was a step-along-the-way, not a destination. And the perfect opportunity to try new things.


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I also said, "Homework never ends; it just is called 'research' when you get older."
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