Leadership lessons from Kindergarten

Yesterday, I volunteered at my daughter’s class at school.

I do it at least once each term and love being able to go in and see her class doing their work (and walk away with more admiration for the work that so many great teachers do!). As I was sitting at the front of the class trying to help kids with their spelling, I noticed the sign below was at the back of the class.


It comes from the work of Carol McCloud and her team at Bucket Fillers. It’s about helping kids to be more resilient and positive kids and schools. Many of you who have been around kids in the last decade will be familiar with the concept. In case you’re not or need a refresher, the basic premise of the metaphor is that we all carry an invisible bucket in which we keep our good thoughts and feelings. When our buckets are full, we are happy; when they are empty, we are sad. It’s important to know that we can fill our own bucket and so can others. We can also dip into it.

“Bucket fillers” are those who help without being asked, give hugs and compliments, and generally spread their good feelings to others.

 What I was struck with was how this sign in a primary school class can serve as good advice for leaders – especially first time leaders who often don’t think that they have the time to yield and therefore rarely get to the point where they are filling other people’s bucket. As a leader, we could do far worse than being a bucket filler! It also speaks to the point of how important it is for all of us to look after our own wellbeing in order to be of service to others.

There is no doubt that leadership is hard, complex and challenging work. It can also be made better by the stuff that kindergarten kids are learning. More on paradoxes another time!

My questions for you to consider today are:

  1. What do you need to do right now – stop, yield or go?

  2. Once you have done it, what difference that make to you and those around you?

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