PUPILS: 6 Pillars of Learning-Focused Leadership

The acronym can help you better connect to your team, and grow as a leader.

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As we are all aware, true leadership is not defined by titles. One’s title may tell you what position she holds in the organization’s hierarchy, but it does not tell you the position she holds in the hearts and minds of those under her watch. Although there are as many approaches to leadership as there are moons of Saturn, I find Tai M. Brown’s stance on leadership to be one of the more comprehensive in scope. In his view, “The role of a leader is to create and maintain an environment that people want to be a part of.”

The process of creating and sustaining an enterprising environment can take on many forms, but there is no question as to the importance of setting the organizational climate and adjusting the temperature when necessary. In college athletics, student-athletes are successfully led by coaches and administrators in various ways. With respect to this dynamic, I devised the acronym PUPILS to capture the essence of student-focused leadership in our field of play. 

People: People are primary and essential to the collective success of any organization. Without great people, there is neither progress nor prosperity.

Understanding: Emotional intelligence is a key attribute of effective leaders. Taking the time to understand others’ backgrounds, motivations, and values helps build rapport and promotes organic buy-in.

Performance: Leaders must lead by example and thus perform in such a way for those being led to emulate.

Integration: Leaders must be listeners above all and have the ability to creatively integrate the ideas/interests of their team into overarching goals.

Learning: Learning takes place in various forms, and as leaders, we must remain on the cutting-edge so as to better educate those who allow us to lead them.

Sharing: Sharing contacts, experiences, and information is but a few of many ways to sustain success in perpetuity. In short, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” –James Keller

The inherent spin on the PUPILS approach subscribes to the doctrine of leading as a lifelong learner. Similarly, the more you learn, the more you will earn—whether in the form of respect, credibility, and/or (drumroll)…money. On the note of finances, so as to direct your leadership efforts toward providing value beyond the ACH Direct Deposit, keep the following consideration in mind:

“ Is working for you more than just another paycheck?” –  The Blueprint for a Successful Career

In an industry that lags behind most with respect to entry-level wages, it is all the more critical to compensate those you lead with intrinsic, personal and professional benefits.

Studies show that those who perform best academically are often found at or near the front of the class, so I venture to say that those with a penchant for PUPILS will find themselves positioned at the forefront of the next class of leaders.

For more information on leadership, be sure to check out The Blueprint for a Successful Career on Amazon.

Originally published on

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