Courage, Caring, Can-do Attitude & Communication

Wednesday 18th September 2019

Leadership opportunities are aplenty at Queen Anne’s School, and girls are always encouraged throughout their year groups to take on positions of leadership and responsibility.
Our Lower Sixth especially will be given many opportunities to take on leadership roles: as prefects, peer mentors, and Head Girls. Beyond life at Queen Anne’s, who knows what exciting leadership opportunities lie ahead?


But what makes a good leader? Queen Anne’s had the pleasure of welcoming Brigadier Rory Copinger-Symes RM CBE to present a Lecture on Leadership to our Lower Sixth Students. Having spent 37 years in leadership positions in the Royal Marines, Brigadier Copinger-Symes clearly holds a wealth of knowledge and experience of what makes a good leader.


Mr Jones, head of the Lower Sixth Academic Enrichment Programme and Sixth Form Lecture Series, introduced Brigadier Copinger-Symes to the full recital hall full of students. The two had attended school together, at Pangbourne College, where Brigadier Copinger-Symes was head boy. This was where his experience of leadership first began, in quite a similar way to our Sixth Form girls.



Once leaving Pangbourne College, Brigadier Copinger-Symes decided to go straight into training for the Royal Marines. At 19, he was sent straight to Ireland to lead a team of people who were all older and more experienced than himself. Now that’s a leadership challenge! He had to learn quickly what it took to be a good, and respected leader.


“Leadership is essentially about being able to get people to do things that they otherwise would not do.” Brigadier Copinger-Symes told our Sixth Form students. “It’s not easy; it’s a challenge.”


Throughout his talk the Brigadier shared many personal stories and anecdotes from his career, of both successes and important learning experiences. From Sierra Leone to Antarctica, his life experiences were clear examples of what it takes to be a leader.



Our speaker introduced the girls to the four C’s of leadership:
Courage, caring, can-do, and communication.


When it comes to courage, Brigadier Copinger-Symes explained that this is not so much about physical courage, but about moral courage: “You are going to have to stand up for and commit to your values and what you think is right.” He also explained that what is right is not always what is popular, and that there will be times when you will be challenged with choosing the easy option or the right option.


Being caring is also a key part of being a good leader: “I always say this to the teams I lead: caring does not necessarily mean ‘soft’. Caring is about understanding and listening.”


The next C was a can-do attitude. “You should be optimistic, but realise what is attainable. You have to have the skills to convince your team that you can all get through to the end.” Brigadier Copinger-Symes told a story about a difficult time in icy Norway, that he led his team on a strenuous trip through the snow, only to realise that they had been heading in the complete opposite direction! Although he was annoyed at the mistake, he had to convince his team that this didn’t matter, and they could all complete the correct journey in good spirits.


Finally, communication. With social media widely used amongst young people, communication is easier and faster than ever. However, it is important to think about how you want to convey a message, and to make sure that it is being received and understood correctly. “Don’t be afraid of having face-to-face communications,” Brigadier Copinger-Symes explained. “Often this is still the most effective way of communicating a message.”



Our Sixth Form students had gained valuable knowledge from Brigadier Copinger-Symes’ lecture on leadership. As the session came to a close, he reminded the girls not to be discouraged if they feel that leadership is not for them: “Some people say leaders are born – I don’t necessarily believe that. Leadership can be learned.”


We’d like to say a big thank you to Brigadier Rory Copinger-Symes RM CBE for visiting Queen Anne’s School again after so many years, and inspiring a new generation of young people in their own leadership journeys.



Read more of the latest news from Queen Anne’s School here.