Denny Smith
Leadership and Development Trainer

Sir Winston Churchill said, “I am an optimist. Nothing else makes much sense.” Whether you see a glass half empty or half full may not be the fundamental issue. The reality of either scenario is that there is still room to fill the glass.


We are justifiably alarmed at the current divide in America, but the late Harlan “Colonel” Sanders reminded us that “Behind every problem is a bigger and better opportunity if you can only find a solution to the problem.” This offers a golden opportunity to reframe our attitudes, renew our enthusiasm, and rekindle our resolve to making our schools and America safe and welcoming for ALL people. The late Mike Patrick taught us, “The problem is not the issue. The issue is how you deal with the problem.” With that approach, you can use your leadership skills to be on the leading edge in your school and community by courageously but civilly addressing today’s challenges.


It starts with your vision. Bobby Kennedy said, “Some people see the world as it is and ask ‘Why?’ Others see the world as it could be and ask, ‘Why not?’” I encourage you to take time this summer to quietly reflect on your vision for the coming year. What can you do to lead your team to close the achievement gap by first closing the opportunity gap? What can you do to make sure that your school is safe and welcoming for all staff and students? What can you do to inspire your teachers to stay positive and focused, even during challenging times? 


If I could sell you on only one idea for keeping yourself resourceful it would be this. Set aside time every day to put positive thoughts into your precious mind. Read something uplifting every day. Motivational speaker Charlie “Tremendous” Jones says that where you are five years from now will depend on what you read. What you digest and put into practice is key to honing your leadership skills. 


I used to run around the country telling people I was in the motivation business, but that’s not true. I can’t motivate anyone. Hopefully, I can inspire for a few minutes, but motivation is a door with a handle on the inside. A habit of inspiring yourself daily generates a high level of motivation and enthusiasm, making personal positivity a way of life that manifests success, happiness, and peace of mind. 


A seminar participant of Zig Ziglar’s challenged him by saying, “Zig, that motivation stuff is OK, but it doesn’t last. I go to a seminar and get all pumped up, but in a couple of days I’m right back down in the dumps.” Zig answered, “Well of course. This stuff is like taking a bath – it’s a good thing to do but it doesn’t last very long.” Frequency is important. You nourish your body every day. Take time to nourish your mind as well. Each day you groom the hair on your head. It makes good sense to also groom what goes on in your head. 


If positive attitudes get positive results and we define attitudes as “habits of thought,” then the idea of keeping yourself positive makes a lot of sense. It’s the cornerstone of developing leadership from the inside out. 

Have a good summer. 


Denny Smith is a former teacher and coach, a speaker, and an author dedicated to making our schools and communities safe and welcoming for all people. He is the author of Emotional Intelligence 101: How to Carve a Duck and is currently working on Coaches Make the Difference and Teachers Make the Difference, which will be available in the fall. 

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