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Greg McCann Introduces Vertical Leadership Concepts to R-MA Staff and Students

On Monday, April 9th, leadership expert and renowned speaker Greg McCann spoke to Randolph-Macon Academy faculty, staff, and upperclassmen. McCann has been a leadership coach for nearly 20 years, focusing on family-owned businesses and the unique challenges they face. His publications include “Who Do You Think You Are? Aligning Your Character and Reputation” and “When Your Parents Sign the Paychecks.” He also co-authored a white paper on Vertical Leadership with R-MA Board Member and leadership expert Patty Keenan. (See their articles online.)

During his presentation, McCann emphasized character, comparing it to a ship or a plane in the way it directs a person’s life. He spoke of four “agilities,” naming self-awareness (the ability to be aware of and manage your emotions), empathy (the ability to empathize with the needs, feelings, and thoughts of others), framing (looking at the full situation in a global context), and innovation (best defined, according to McCann, as “creating value from change”). 

He also spoke about the four stages of leadership, pointing out that everyone is a conformer, looking to fit into a group. About 45% of the population reaches the next level of expert—the problem solver who sees people as tools to achieve a solution, wants to be the hero, and starts to develop the four agilities. McCann stated that due to the programs and education R-MA provides, he would expect most R-MA students to graduate at this level or higher. The next level, achievers (35% of the population), tend to be outcome-focused strategists, who listen to others’ ideas more readily. The top 5% of leaders are post-heroic and develop a culture in which others feel encouraged to contribute. They tend to be highly reflective, empathetic in the moment, but pushing forward when the time comes. He emphasized several times that in the theory and practice of Vertical Leadership, being a catalyst is about developing a culture, rather than being the hero. 

“Mr. McCann's presentation was like a breath of fresh air,” said R-MA Chorus Director and Assistant Bandmaster Michael DeMato. “As educators, we can get caught up in focusing solely on our students' acquisition of academic knowledge and attainment of good grades, but there is another component that can get lost in the shuffle.  Mr. McCann reminded us to educate the whole person, and that includes building their character, as well as intelligence.”

Having taught at the college level, McCann holds his own views about how colleges must adapt to continue to be relevant in this rapidly changing world, and what students can do to still gain value from a college education. His comments in that area made a strong impression on the junior and senior cadets gathered there. 

“What stood out to me the most was that much of what we will learn in college will be obsolete by the time that we graduate and that most graduates do not work in the exact field that they got their degree in,” said Ryan Latham ’18. “It put my future in perspective and made me think about how I will design my course of study to keep my options open and be prepared for the ever changing world ahead.” 

For more information about McCann, visit his website at