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Leadership Day offers unique opportunity for young women to develop as effective leaders

Leadership Day offers unique opportunity for young women to develop as effective leaders
Leadership Day offers unique opportunity for young women to develop as effective leaders

By Claiborne Fowler ’19

In a lightning round of word association, Harpeth Hall upper school students shouted out qualities of an effective leader.

Respectful. Inclusive. Dependable. Honorable. Kind.

The words came quickly and easily for the young women who gathered for the annual student Leadership Day retreat. At Harpeth Hall, all students learn to lead confidently and are given opportunities to hone those skills by participating in more than 50 student-led organizations where students hold more than 270 leadership positions.

Leadership Day is a distinguishing opportunity for those elected by their peers as student leaders. Each fall before the school year begins, the young women — including Student Council, Honor Council, Public Purpose Council, class officers, and club officers — gather to learn the skills of effective and inclusive leadership. Retreat sessions include how to build a team, run an effective meeting, the logistics of project management, and how to ensure different voices are heard.

The young women come together, exchange ideas, and engage in discussions designed to foster leadership skills, teamwork, and personal growth so they can enter the year with knowledge and confidence as leaders.

This year, the retreat featured guest speaker Megan Youngblood ’98 — the first Harpeth Hall graduate to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Ms. Youngblood served in both Germany and Iraq and received the Bronze Star Medal for Meritorious Service during operations in Iraq. For the last two decades, Ms. Youngblood has worked with organizations to shape strategic planning processes and to creatively design solutions to major challenges. She spent the last 13 years at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she has held various strategic, operational, and leadership roles for the organization. She is currently the associate vice president at Vanderbilt Health Services and the vice president for Vanderbilt Integrated Providers. She is also a founding board member of the Nashville chapter of Women in Healthcare.

Alumnae classmates from 1998 who now work at Harpeth Hall and Ms. Youngblood.

The Leadership Day workshop led by Ms. Youngblood focused on recognizing the complexity of leadership. It is not just about giving orders or being in charge, she told the student leaders. It is about empathy, effective communication, adaptability, and a genuine desire to make a positive impact.

“It's more than okay to be vulnerable,” Ms. Youngblood said, referencing the strength that comes with that kind of transparency. “It's more than okay to show emotion and to share that as a leader and with your peers. It can't be compartmentalized all the time.”

Ms. Youngblood also chose to highlight the importance of authenticity in leadership. She asked the students as well as the faculty who facilitated Leadership Day — including Director of Community Engagement Jessie Adams Ph.D., Director of Equity and Inclusion Jasmin Hopkins, and Director of the Upper School Frances Fondren Bales — to share what being authentic means to them.

“Authenticity means showing up as your unapologetic, uninterrupted version of yourself because there will be iterations, and you should embrace that,” Ms. Hopkins said.

Dr. Adams expanded on this thought, saying, “You have to do the work of being self-aware. You have to know yourself, which means you have to do the work of reflecting, journaling, thinking — What are my areas of growth? What are my areas of strength? How can I complement my areas of growth, and how can other people on my team help me?”