Best Lesson: What makes a great leader? This HK student discovered that accepting advice and learning from your mistakes are key

Nicholas Ng

It’s good to want to lead your team to success but you also need to know how to carry them out of failure

Nicholas Ng |

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Making mistakes and learning from them is part of leadership.

I had always thought a good leader needed to have a lot of experience, be brave, be willing to work hard to see their team do well. However, I hadn’t realised that it is just as important for leaders to be able to accept failure, take advice from others, change their ideas, and learn from their mistakes.

This is what I learned as a student leader at South Island School. This year, a fellow student and I were put in charge of MaD Week, a Making a Difference (MaD) Student Council event that works to encourage students to interact. The theme of the event was “Sustainability”, so we tried to think of ways to make people want to recycle and take care of the planet.

I worked with other MaD student council members from junior years to come up with fun activities for the week. We came up with chalk drawing, asking students to dress up in recycled materials, and even a polo tournament that takes place in a sea of plastic bottles.

One of the most popular ideas was a game in which students have to knock plastic bottles into a recycling bin. We thought it would be fun if the winners got to draw teachers’ faces on the bottles that players would be hitting. We were excited to present our ideas to the teachers who were involved in the event, but the response we got from them wasn’t quite what we expected.

Nicholas Ng from South Island School learned about how to be a good leader during a school event.
Photo courtesy of Nicholas Ng

We received an email from the teacher in charge saying she did not think it was a good idea to allow students to draw teachers’ faces on the plastic bottles, as she said this made fun of our teachers. She wasn’t angry, but it was a clear no from her. I was quite disappointed at the time to hear this.

To make things worse, I noticed that she had shared the email with all the other teachers, which made my heart sink to the bottom of my stomach. I had lost face in front of all of my teachers, and my confidence in my ability to come up with ideas and run the event was shattered.

That night, I sent the teacher a reply asking if I could meet her. She said yes. The next day we sat down before the start of school and I gave her six different activities we could do instead. After what seemed like the longest pause ever, she nodded at me. This gave me the feeling that I had righted my wrong.

As for the event, many of my schoolmates told me that they enjoyed the activities, and the teachers were happy with it, too.

I was glad that I didn’t let the teacher’s comment bring me down. For a short while, I wanted to just give up. But I learned that it’s better to let go of your pride sometimes and admit that you made a mistake. That is the only way you can learn from your error and improve.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda

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