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Empathy, Courage, Feedback, and Trust: gcLi’s School Certification Program

Heidi KasevichLeadership Lab, Leadership Programs, Pedagogy Of Leadership®, Student Leadership

by Heidi Kasevich, Ph.D., gcLi Leadership Academy and School Certification Program Director

The gcLi launched its newest program in August 2023, the School Certification Program in the Pedagogy of Leadership®. I am the architect of this program, which is in many ways a culminating project for me, drawing on years of teaching leadership to students and adults alike. My passion is to help educators see the leadership potential in themselves – inclusive of personality style – and in turn, to nurture that potential in all of their students. 

Leadership potential of all? Yes. Leadership is not tied to a title. As Donald McGannon states, “Leadership is action, not position.” Our working definition of leadership at the gcLi is focused on the impact of one’s behaviors on others: “Leadership involves choosing behaviors, from a place of empathy and courage, that helps a group to achieve its goals.” Effective leaders are masters of both emotional intelligence and the giving and receiving of feedback. The simply elegant question, “What impact did I have on you?” becomes a part of our daily routine when we are invested in a feedback process that separates intention from impact and focuses on building strong relationships with others. 

Together with the Facilitators, the majority of whom are Leadership Lab Graduates, the School Certification Program in the Pedagogy of Leadership® aims to empower faculty and staff in a single school to create a trusting school culture that allows for every member of the community to achieve their full potential in a variety of settings: from the classroom to the faculty meeting; from the playing field to the parent-teacher conference; from the admissions interview to lunch in the dining hall. As one member of our Certification Program states, “I have really appreciated the opportunity for cross-departmental collaboration. Faculty and staff are often siloed from each other so it has been rewarding to work together over these sessions.”

We strive to help faculty and staff to become intentional, consistent and strategic–and exceptional–mentors as they guide students toward becoming more deliberate and dynamic leaders. We believe that students encounter opportunities to demonstrate leadership every day; and every day, teachers can recognize these moments and capitalize on them, equipping them with strategies to strengthen connections with students.

In a series of experiential, in-person workshops, over a four-day period (24 hours of training), faculty and staff learn the essential components of the Pedagogy of Leadership®, including ways in which introversion and extroversion influence behavior and learning, giving and receiving feedback fosters team psychological safety, and teachable moments abound at all educational levels. Awareness of the stages of team development enables leaders to adapt to ever-changing circumstances–and help their teams to thrive. 

Over the course of the year, we continue to work with our Facilitators so that they have enhanced skills and capacities to develop the leadership capacities of their colleagues–and, in turn, their students. Our goal is to assist the adult community in nurturing, resilient, humble and compassionate student leaders.

Self-Aware Leadership – Building Confidence and Resilience as a Leader

In the first session, faculty and staff learn a personal framework for building intention and consistency in the multitude of interactions between adults and students, with the goal of supporting all students to lead in every moment. Together with a buddy, a Purposeful Partner in this experiential journey, they explore their identities as introverts or extroverts, their leadership strengths, ways to step outside their comfort zones, and strategies for restoring their energy. They also learn how to give and receive feedback so as to promote excellence in others and foster trust and understanding amongst members of a group. 

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As Kash Shabazz, Co-Director of the Office of Integrity and Belonging at Salisbury School states, “Because of my understanding of leadership styles, my confidence has risen and I’ve been able to facilitate that same confidence and growth in my students.” Another affirms: “I have been much more self aware of my participation and emotional regulation in the classroom. This is directly a result of my own observations of how I felt during gcLi activities. This has helped me in class to understand what I need to do to respond well to situations or stimulate responses from students.” A third: “I am not defensive when receiving feedback. I am not afraid to give honest feedback to colleagues.”

Humble Leadership – Building Connectedness and Psychological Safety on Teams

In session two, faculty and staff explore strategies for building inclusive, high-trust cultures on teams. They are immersed in real world situations, allowing them to take the initiative. As per Amy Edmonson, psychological safety is the shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. After every group challenge, we ensure that there is time for a debrief with our Team Trust Checklist, which includes the following questions: “How did the group engage with the challenge?  What worked and didn’t work? Is it safe to take a risk on this team?  Is it easy to ask other members of this team for help?” As one participant exclaims, “This activity was a lesson in humility! A point could be that it made us feel very much like some of our students feel when they believe a task is impossible or they are discouraged because they are going to fail.” 

Courageous Leadership – Building Competence in Creating and Capitalizing on Teachable Moments

In session three, faculty and staff learn strategies for facilitating student and faculty leadership activities, including Case Studies, Consultancy Protocol, and Open Session. These tools and tactics for teaching leadership set the stage for utilizing shared experiences as an opportunity to explore and develop leadership behaviors. As Angela Lawlor of Gwynedd Mercy Academy avers, “The Consultancy Protocol and Open Sessions allowed us to grow together as a community and support one another, even though we don’t all work in the same departments on a regular basis. As an introvert, these directed opportunities with clear structure and boundaries for conversations truly gave me the space to both process internally and respond authentically.”

Servant Leadership – Building Compassion as a Leader

In the final session, faculty and staff develop their own meaningful Action Plan that addresses a particular leadership need in the school community and promotes the leadership development of students. With this first-hand experience, they are better able to help their students create impact in their communities by devising a meaningful plan for addressing a local, national, or global challenge. To quote our founder, Jim Carney: “Meaningful is the operative word as these projects can include significant socio-cultural issues or a simple gathering to celebrate the unique nature of a school community.” 

In all cases, leadership is the work of people coming together to achieve a common goal. The ways in which we can build a common leadership vocabulary in our schools is essential to the teaching of leadership to our students so that they can: advocate for self; unleash the potential of team members; skillfully solve adaptive challenges; and foster communities of belonging. Working together, we can foster inclusive cultures of leadership in our schools.  


What Is Psychological Safety?” by Amy Gallo (Harvard Business Review) 

About Donald McGannon (Fordham University)

Dr. Heidi Kasevich is the founding Director of both the gcLi Academy and the gcLi School Certification Program, and founder and CEO of Kase Leadership Method, a mission-driven organization committed to fostering temperament-inclusive cultures where people of diverse personality styles can thrive. An expert in quiet and women’s leadership, she serves as career coach for nonprofit leaders. 

Dr. Kasevich recently served as Director of Education at Quiet Revolution, where she launched a national introvert-inclusivity professional development program, featured in numerous national magazines and radio programs. Her proficiency is grounded in 20+ years as leadership/history educator, department chair, and program director at schools in NYC and Paris: Nightingale-Bamford; Dalton; Berkeley Carroll; New York University; Cooper Union; Académie de Paris (Oxbridge Academic Program). 

Dr. Kasevich is co-author of The Introverted Actor: Practical Approaches, and her forthcoming publication Silent Talk: Setting the Stage for Introverts to Thrive provides educators at all levels with research-based strategies to create introvert-friendly classrooms and nurture quiet leaders.