Courage: Reflections on Glee & Leadership

I’m a huge Gleek. I’ve been obsessed with everything Glee-related since it first started in 2009. Every Tuesday (and then Thursdays… and now back to Tuesdays) since then I’m always watching the latest episode, singing and swaying along with the McKinley High kids (when it’s not on a 398312 week hiatus).

Nothing will beat early Glee.

Now as a diehard fan, I’m first one to admit that the quality of the show has dropped significantly since their award winning first season. There have been many episodes where I have finished watching while feeling frustrated and angry. Plain and simple, the 4th and 5th seasons have been nothing like the first seasons when I first fell in love with it.

I never thought that this musical high-school drama would teach me anything about leadership, but I was quite wrong. It actually is one of the catalysts that got me thinking about leadership.

Flashback to December 9, 2009, Episode 12 of the first season, “Mattress.” I was in Grade 11 at the time, 100% focused on becoming a teacher, super involved in school but had never thought about leadership as a concept. In this episode Rachel (Lea Michele) looks for a co-captain to pose in the Yearbook picture with her and the following exchange happens between her and Finn (Cory Monteith):

Rachel: Because you’re a leader, Finn. And that’s what leaders do. They stick their necks out for people that they care about […]

His response…

Cue Grade 11 Juan reflecting about leadership for the first time

I distinctly remember being taken aback by Finn’s declaration of his own leadership. What made him think he was a leader? What made him earn that title? Could he call himself a leader?

I moved on from that thought process quickly but now having studied theory, delving myself into development and now knowing leadership was not some grandiose title bequeathed by others, but rather a lifestyle and attitude, my position changed a lot. Coincidentally, Rachel provides a similar definition to that of Servant Leadership, one of my favourite leadership theories.


Whether it’s the Glee Club using their talents and time to help others less fortunate than them (Extraordinary Merry Christmas), Unique standing up for rights of transgendered students (End of Twerk), Blaine emphasizing the power of courage (Never Been Kissed) or Kurt dealing with the failure of not getting into NYADA, but then learning from it and dusting himself off (Goodbye), I can see strong connections between what I’ve seen from this rag-tag clan of misfits from Lima, Ohio and what I practice and preach in my leadership.

Yes, I can pull leadership lessons now from Glee, but I will always remember how that one quote in 2009, sparked a thought process in my head, that I never knew would lead to my biggest passion and (hopefully) my future career.

Thank you Glee for entertaining me (most episodes) with song, drama and comedy. Thank you for teaching the importance of taking risks, accepting failure and accepting yourself and others. Most of all, thank you for kickstarting my internal discussion of what it means to be a leader 3 years ago before I knew that’s what I would focus on most of my time.


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