by Maria Cassidy, AmeriCorps member serving on the BMC Software team with Irving Middle School
Greatness in leadership does not come from status.
What do you picture when you think of achieving greatness? Media has always taught me that greatness is defined by gaining more than others or by taking charge, not responsibility. Have you ever been taught to give others credit for success? Has anyone advised you to take the discredit whenever something goes wrong? There is little doubt that greatness in leadership involves an intense professional will and fierce resolve. If you then add an equal portion of humility, you have gone from good to great. You have become a Level Five leader.
Level Five Leadership may be City Year’s hardest-to-understand cardinal value because it runs counter to the American culture of status acquisition. To understand this value more fully, I talked to my team’s leadership. When asked what Level Five Leadership means to her, my Impact Manager, Elizabeth Stein said “When something goes poorly, that leader is able to say ‘That was my mistake. Here’s why it did not go well, and that’s my mistake,’ rather than placing blame on others. On the flipside, when there is success, a Level Five Leader does not say ‘Oh yeah, that’s something that I did,’ and ‘I made sure that this happened,’ but instead, ‘this was the success of the team,’ or ‘here’s where this person really stood out.’”
Why is this humility important? By this definition involving taking ownership of others’ mistakes, is a Level Five leader someone who can do it all where others fail? My Co-Team Leaders spoke to this point. Sienna Dear said, “Level Five Leadership is not necessarily doing everything but learning how to lead others through it.” Clara Hobson said Level Five Leadership is “Constantly strive to never think ‘I’m done, I’ve learned how to be a manager...thinking of change and actively pursuing it.”
These mindsets are vital to impacting our students and working with our partner schools. As City Year AmeriCorps members, it is important to know both our power and our place. We are neither teachers nor disciplinarians, but we should complement and further our parnter teachers’ work and goals. Thus, being a great City Year corps member means reflecting the humility-power duality of our cardinal value Level Five Leadership. We have so much we want to achieve; we want to end the dropout crisis. The best way to further this mission is to take responsibility in every possible way.