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Leadership Part 2 – Little Things

Part two in a series about developing leadership potential in students

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


 To consider how doing the little things well can help when we are in a leadership position.

Preparation and materials


  1. Show the image of an unmade bed.

    I wonder how many of your beds look like this right now. If this is a picture of your bed, I wonder what the rest of your bedroom looks like!

    You may be wondering why we are talking about bed-making in an assembly on leadership. Hopefully, that will become clear.

  2. Show the image of US Navy SEALs.

    Ask the students if they recognize the uniforms.

    Point out that, 
    if the students have watched any TV programmes about the rigorous training that special troops undergo, they will no doubt have noticed the leadership qualities that these people possess. After all, they have to go into some of the most frightening and demanding places in the world.

  3. The following excerpt is from an address that Admiral William H. McRaven, ninth commander of the US Special Operations Command, gave to graduates in Texas. In this address, he shared with the graduates the ten lessons he learned from basic SEAL training.

    ‘Every morning, in SEAL training, my instructors . . . would show up in my barracks room and the first thing theyd do was inspect my bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers would be pulled tight, the pillow centred just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack.

    It was a simple task, mundane at best, but every morning, we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that we were aspiring to be real warriors - tough, battle-hardened SEALs - but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.’

  4. Ask the students the following question.

    What lessons do you think were learned by performing this simple, mundane task?

    You may wish to listen to a range of answers.

    In his address, Admiral McRaven went on to explain that making your bed well every day means that you can:

    - know that you have 
    accomplished the first task of the day
    - feel a 
    small sense of pride
    - feel 
    encouraged to do another task
    - l
    earn that the little things in life matter
    appreciate, after a hard day, how wonderful it is to come home to a bed that is made and ready to fall in to

  5. Admiral McRaven reminded the graduates that, if we can’t be trusted to do the little things, were less likely to be trusted with bigger things. Sometimes, learning discipline and dedicating ourselves to a small task prepares us for the work needed to complete a far greater task.

    Bed-making may seem like a strange example, but, as Admiral McRaven said, ‘the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over . . . so, if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed!’
  6. Imagine if your only leadership challenge was to encourage hundreds of others to make their beds in the morning. How much stress would you manage to alleviate for hundreds of families?!

  7. Show the image of a person in overalls.

    Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, put it this way, ‘Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.’

Time for reflection

Leaders are people who have learned the importance of doing the little things well.

What little thing could you focus on today? Remember that, by doing it well, you are taking steps on the road to leadership.

Dear God,
Teach us what real leadership is all about.
Help us to understand that being clever, or bossy, or popular does not necessarily make us a potential leader.
Help us to be faithful in little things.

Publication date: November 2016   (Vol.18 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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