Education

All great leaders are a sentence. What is yours?

Often as I am getting ready to head to a district, a school, or to speak at a conference, I listen to podcasts or music that will fill my head and my heart with the energy I want to bring to others that day. I am drawn time and time again to Oprah’s Super Soul podcast. Recently I listened to an episode where Oprah interviewed Daniel Pink. He told a story about Clare Boothe Luce, a political leader and writer, giving JFK some advice.

Luce told Kennedy that a great leader is a single sentence, and challenged him to decide on his sentence. She offered him some examples.

Lincoln’s sentence was, “He preserved the union and freed the slaves.”

Franklin Roosevelt’s sentence was, “He lifted us out of a great depression and helped us win a world war.”

Just as Luce challenged Kennedy to focus his life into a single sentence, Pink challenges us to do the same. (“Drive” pp. 154-155).

So, what is your sentence? All great leaders have them, and all educators are leaders, so what is yours?

As I pondered that question, I reflected back on my core values. I have identified integrity and “making a difference” as my core two values. It makes sense that my two core values would be present somehow in my sentence. (If you haven’t defined your core values yet, check out this post for some guidance.)

Then, I thought about the end of my yoga session each morning, where the instructor asks us to set our intention for the day. I respond the same way each morning–that I want to bring energy and light and focus to the people I am working with. It seems like that response would live in my sentence also.

Here is my sentence, working draft form:

She was energy and light and focus, and helped others find the same within themselves.

How might defining ourselves as a sentence help us be who we want to be each day? It is about both how we show up for ourselves and how we show up for others. For me, whether I am working with a school staff on using the PLC process to further student achievement, helping them create MTSS systems for behavior and academics, delivering a keynote speech at a conference, or if I am making dinner for my family, I want to show up as my sentence. I want the world to feel more vibrant and lighter because I am around, and then I want to help others find that within themselves so eventually they feel better whether I am around or not.

My sentence shows up in my social media posts and comments. Even when I disagree with someone.

My sentence shows up in how I respond to terrible customer service. Even when I am at the brink of my patience.

My sentence is present when I am angry, frustrated, or delirious with joy. It looks a bit different when I experience different emotions.

My sentence is there, even when my energy reserves are low. It is just a little quieter.

Trust me, you are going to be thinking about this for a while. I have thought about it every day since I heard the podcast. When you come up with a working draft of your sentence, come back here and share it with me in the comments. Or, tag me on social media (@AllysonApsey or #LeadingTheWholeTeacher). I want to hear your sentence and what it means for how you will show up for yourself and others each day.

We are so much better together.


Living life with a “Serendipity Mindset” does not mean pretending that everything is a happy accident. It means knowing that everything we go through, from our highest of highs to our lowest of lows, offers us beautiful gifts–IF we look for them. You can check out the #SerendipityEDU books out on Amazon by clicking HERE. Each book is filled with inspiration to help us discover the gifts in along life’s journey. With the addition of a middle-grades chapter book called The Serendipity Journal, there is a book for every age level. And, want to hear the best news yet?!? My newest book, #LeadingTheWholeTeacher is available now!!!

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