Following the Leader

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If it weren't too long for the allotted space, I would've titled this post, "Everything I Needed to Know about Leadership I Learned from my Son's Preschool Teacher." And after two years of watching Ruth Harkema, this phenomenal leader, at work, I'd mean it. Of course, I knew a thing or two about leadership before I saw this gifted woman using her skills, but watching her style up close and personal - along with seeing the impact she has on those kids she leads - cemented everything good I had known before and taught me a few tricks I hadn't quite captured.

So what makes her so impressive? Simple: She can lead a group of 20 wild and wiggly or worn-out and wooly four-year-olds down a school hallway in a single file, quietly. Can you? I know I'd sooner lead a group of inmates over a prison wall than attempt that feat.

And not only that, my son can write his name, knows all his letters (caps and lowercase), can recite the Pledge of Allegiance, can paint with many different tools, prays in public with fervor, sings thousands of praise and silly songs alike, and has developed an affinity for the stage all because of this woman. And he was only with her two hours, three afternoons a week - in a class with 20 other kids (and another great teacher, Mrs. Lanenga)! He's with me all the time, and, well, sometimes it seems like all I've taught him is to bake and "check email."

Mrs. Harkema sets a vision for what her students will learn over the course of the year and leads them all toward it with gusto - and they all have a blast. She's a leader we could all learn a lot from.

From Mrs. Harkema, I've seen the magic of consistency - matched with flexibility - the wisdom of raising a "quiet finger," and the might a little bell ringing in the midst of a lotta noise. I've learned that proper expectations doled out fairly with kind eyes and firm words does wonders for the confidence of those you lead. And I've witnessed the power of knowing another human being: what makes her tick, what soothes her, what inspires her to become great at whatever she's meant to become great at.

Mrs. Harkema's job is more than to teach preschoolers: It's to lead them to love learning, lead them to know God, and to lead them toward becoming who God made them to be. And she's a leader worth following.

My question to you, gifted women: Who are those leaders around you who've inspired you? What makes them leaders worth following?


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