Chapter 1      image

Leadership can be learned, and taught, early

My first memory of leadership is from Grade 1. I was an early reader; my parents had encouraged me to read the newspaper over their shoulder at breakfast on Saturday mornings. I was also the youngest in school — I started at the tender age of four so from the outset I felt ‘behind’. This was one reason Mum pushed me hard to learn how to read before I got there. She knew that I would be less developed physically and socially when I got to school and wanted to make sure I wouldn't be behind intellectually. I quickly got the hang of it and by the time I reached Grade 1 I was topping the class.

Leader without a title

My teacher was the most beautiful woman, Miss Barton — who became Mrs Williamson later in the year, dashing the hopes and hearts of many young boys in my class. She quickly recognised that I was not only a great reader but also very encouraging with those around me. Rather than have me sitting bored at the back of the class and destined to distract others (a trait that came to the fore in secondary school), Miss Barton gave me a special job. I would no longer have ‘reading time’ — instead, I would be a reading coach. She gave me a small group of classmates to sit with, listen to and help with words they were stuck on as they developed their own reading skills. Through one small intervention, this very wise woman ...

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