Third Seat from the Front: Leadership Styles and Confidence
As Summer turned into Fall, the same strange cocktail of excitement and dread swirled around me just like it did with every other kid at that time of year. But this year it felt different.
It was the year I began Sixth grade and our class had been “annexed” to the old part of the school. Imposing rows of wooden desks with ancient ink wells stained by the abuse of mindless doodlers were bolted to the floor in dark, cavernous rooms. Long gone were the shiny modern classrooms I had known for six years.
And then he walked in.
A man who within the year would cause me to develop one of the strongest skills a leader can possess and one of the most difficult to master.
Mr. Mero was a robust, balding man who, I would learn as the school year progressed, had a penchant for twirling his giant class ring on his finger until the stone side faced down. Only then would he take aim and use it to give a quick rap on the head to anyone he deemed rambunctious.
As the 3P bell would ring each afternoon, I realized how much I missed the comforting style of the teachers I had been blessed with until that year.
Now, I had to be constantly on my game.
The tipping point for me, though, was still to come.
Each and every Friday at 2P, we would take a weekly mathematics exam. And each and every Monday morning, we would line up against the walls of the classroom and stand silently, anxiously waiting to be given a desk assignment for the week.
A desk assignment that correlated directly to our grade on that Friday mathematics exam.
The recipient of the top grade in the class got the first desk, in the first row on the right, and every one else fell in line behind that person in descending order of their grade. The low score was unceremoniously shuttled off to no man’s land in the last desk on the left.
For four months,my heart pounded as I waited, listening for my name. And for four months, my name had unfailing been called first.
And then, mid-way through the year it happened. Mr. Mero stood in front of us, wet his index finger, and flicked the stack of exams with a smile as he read the first name. “Michael Morgan.”
I felt my heart beat a little stronger.
Then he read the second name, “James Arlington”. My ears flushed red with embarrassment.
Next, “Sandra French.” As I heard my name called, I walked forward to take my exam. And as I did Mr. Mero leaned in to me and said “you’ll never get that front seat back again.”
I looked down at my third placed grade, a 94, and I took my seat- third from the front.
In that moment, I knew someone was betting against me. I also knew I would get that seat back again.
Leaders know the feeling. At some point, the wind starts slamming you in your face. The winning streak seems to stop without warning and you feel as if your head is about to get rapped by the backside of a class ring. People may even be betting against you.
How leaders respond in that moment is critical. And the most crucial element to their success boils down to one thing.
The confidence they have in their own ability to “get the seat back.”
I’m sure I had confidence all those months in the “winning” seat. I never thought about it and I never had to test it.
Mr. Mero did me a great favor by telling me that I would never get that seat back again. It was the first time in my life that I had to consciously make the decision to be confident.
As a leader, confidence is your greatest ally or your strongest foe. Consciously trusting that you have the strength, the abilities, and the mindset to overcome obstacles, block out negative voices, and push through challenges is what will make your success.
Take a moment and be conscious of where your confidence is right now. If you have areas of weakness, take action to strengthen them. Work to develop it. Remember the challenges you have overcome in the past. Use them to fuel your future.
In case you are wondering, I got the seat back the next week and held it for the remainder of the year.
Thanks, Mr. Mero for kick starting my ability to master one of the key leadership styles: Confidence
Sandi Coryell is a Leadership Speaker and Strategist with The Coryell Group. You can follow her on Twitter @SandiCoryell