You may not be familiar with one of my leadership heroes, but just because her name’s not in the headlines doesn’t mean her legacy doesn’t inspire me every day. I’m one of many in our small town who has been touched by her love, her leadership, her passion.
Dr. Cindy Kalogeropoulos retired last year after serving as the principal of my son’s elementary school for 31 years. We have friends and neighbors who remember her from their grade school years. Before Henry started kindergarten, whenever people asked what school he was attending, when they heard it was her school, they beamed: “Dr. K! I love Dr. K! Dr.K is the best!”
And now, having had a son in her school for four years, I know why: because Dr. K led this elementary school with such immense vision, such passion, such attentiveness. Dr. K knew what every great leader knows: that leadership is about loving people in daily, consistent ways. In her words, her job wasn’t about administration or testing or district politics. She was “painting a masterpiece of love, a few brushstrokes every day.” Isn’t that beautiful? And that’s exactly what it felt like to have a child in her school.
I still see Dr. K sometimes—we both go for walks in the same part of our little town. Every time I see her, she asks about my son—what he’s reading, what he’s into these days. And I remind her every single time that the legacy she left at his school lives so well and deeply beyond her—in the halls, in the conversations and in the lives of people like me, who want nothing more than for our own lives to be masterpieces of love, and who are beyond grateful for such a beautiful, living, breathing, example of extraordinary leadership right in our hometown.
Sometimes the people who inspire us the most, who teach us the most, who call out our gifts and dreams in the most profound ways are not the ones whose names are in headlines–sometimes they’re right in our own hometowns.
Here’s to all the leaders who are building legacies of love in daily, consistent ways in classrooms and storefronts and gymnasiums and offices all around us.
Who are some of the leaders in your local, daily life who teach you and influence you?
Shauna Niequist (GLS 2016) is the New York Times best-selling author of five books, including Present Over Perfect. She is married to Aaron, and they live outside Chicago with their sons, Henry & Mac. Shauna is a bookworm, a beachbum, and a passionate gatherer of people, especially around the table.