17 August 2022
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Our boys in Grades 8 to 10 are about to embark on an Outdoor Learning Experience aimed at challenging them in ways that may make them a little uncomfortable. The intention of the exercise is to get them to internalise and develop the resolve to live the values we teach, even when they may feel least inclined to do so. Our Grade 11s immerse themselves in a structured programme about leadership, guided by teachers and outside facilitators, all experts in their fields.
Finding a cause to rally around is an essential ingredient in the motivation to lead. In a boys’ school, the cause of winning an annual derby, for example, is very easily seen, quantified and championed. Leading requires practise and, as such, some of these fairly inconsequential events that boys get excited about are important in their learning journey of leading others. At the same time, however, it is essential that we ensure our charges are motivated to lead in matters that have real consequence.
In a world that faces significant challenge on multiple fronts, the art of leadership is crucial to our overcoming real-world obstacles. A very real danger is that those of us living in privilege immunise ourselves from many of the substantive challenges those less privileged face daily. Leadership that transforms must be active in the arena of despair; it must confront the harsh failings of society where vices and inaction have overcome our sensibilities.
Transformative leadership is our primary hope as our world is faced with greater inequality and insecurity. As we guide and teach our young people, we must allow them to discover the causes they hold dear, that if addressed, will ensure a better life for all. We should encourage rallying against injustice and a belief in being the difference they would like to see.
Creating opportunity for discomfort in the learning journey is essential for a citizen of our world to be moved to action, such that leadership practices can be shaped. I am greatly encouraged when young men are awakened to a cause that spurs them into action to find a solution.
Leadership that glorifies an individual is vain and hollow; leadership that serves and transforms is rich and full of promise. It is not always easy for an impressionable young person to seek a model of leadership that puts others before self, or that serves the greater good without the need for self-aggrandisement, but without brave structures which encourage this ethos, we will fall short without even trying.
Our young people are astute and by living in South Africa they are hyper aware of the challenges most of our citizens face. Although this can seem to be burdensome, it also provides the ideal backdrop for active participation in finding and creating solutions – learning to lead for change. The privilege of living in the centre of the challenges we face is perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.
To whom much has been given, much will be expected. Our 150th book, which details many stories of leadership from Old Hiltonians around the world, is a wonderful montage of experiences that provide inspiration for our immediate community. Perhaps it is a worthy Christmas present for your son, if you haven’t already got him a copy. May every one of our young men learn to lead in a world desperate for transformative change.