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This month's column is inspired by a piece of art created for me as a "thank you" note for teaching a lesson on leadership last week to kindergartners at Sugar Creek Elementary. Like all great masterpieces, this piece has a much deeper meaning. Take a good look at the artwork -- really study it.

You notice I was wearing a pink tie that day, and somehow chocolate cake became a focal point of my presentation. Therein lies the deeper meaning of this artwork.

First, clearly the kindergartners really liked the pink tie. It was different, colorful and engaging. It kept their attention. I think the message of the pink tie is this: Our students like to see things that are different and colorful. From kindergartener to senior, all students in Bentonville Public Schools want to be engaged in something that is different, colorful and engaging. They want to be a part of the conversation -- not just the receptacle of information. They want to think, do and create.

Second, chocolate cake. How am I going to possibly tie chocolate cake into leadership? Like all great artwork, this masterpiece inspired me to think about how the images connected with my message and how the message was interpreted through the artwork. After prolonged reflection, I believe I have determined why the chocolate cake became so important to them.

Think about chocolate. Chocolate is something that brings people together. It is thought of as something that calms, soothes and changes a person's outlook. Plus, nearly everyone loves chocolate. Think about challenging adult meetings beginning with sharing chocolate. This might work! There is nothing like slowing down just a tad to share something we have in common before trying to work through differences.

The more I thought about the chocolate cake, the more meaning I drew from the artwork. In education, we love acronyms, so I developed my own for cake and leadership. I call it Chocolate Cake Leadership. Chocolate is the unifying constant; CAKE is the principles of leadership.

C is for courage. Kindergartners are courageous -- they aren't afraid to fail and ask for help. Leaders must be courageous to persevere and allow others to share their gifts to support them.

A is for action. Kindergartners want to be active. They want to be doing something that has a purpose -- so do adults. Leaders take action aligned to a purpose.

K is for kindness. Kindergartners are kind because they haven't learned how not to be. Leaders (and followers) need to be kind -- like kindergarteners. Remember the lessons from kindergarten: Remember to share. Remember to hold onto a caring hand when you're not certain of the path. Always play fair. Kindergartners know how to speak respectfully and how to help each other. Finally, never forget, that in kindergarten, we learned we needed to take a nap, play fair and have basic sanitation -- like always washing your hands, and, of course, always remembering to flush.

E is for encourage. The kindergartners at Sugar Creek told me about how they encourage their buddies when someone gets a "boo-boo" or when a classmate struggles with a problem. Leaders support people when they are hurt and help find solutions.

I think if we practiced Chocolate Cake leadership inspired by kindergartners, we could be courageous, action-oriented, kind and encouraging, and we could accomplish great things with the gifts we all have.

NAN Our Town on 09/23/2015

Print Headline: Let them eat cake

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