Guest Post: What I Learned About Leadership from My High School Classmates

My friend Julie (you can read more about her at the end of this post) has provided this post, paying homage to the leadership lessons she learned from childhood friends. Julie knows a thing or two about leadership, and like many great leaders, she has a gift for recognizing potential in others.


My 20-year high school reunion was a couple of weeks ago. And until about two weeks before, I wasn’t planning on going. Partly because I am not really close to anybody I went to school with anymore. (I moved away from my hometown and just don’t get back often enough.) And partly because I despise small talk that attempts to make the last 20 years look like nothing but sunshine and roses when it has really been full of beauty and hell all mixed together.

But at the last minute, my perspective changed. As my oldest son and I were talking about his adventures with his second-grade classmates, I was reminded of what a large role my childhood friends played in my life and leadership story.

You see, I’ve known most of the people I graduated high school with since kindergarten. My childhood friendships (and rivalries) shared and shaped so much in me:

  • Aaron gave me my first listen to Amy Grant and a fiery competitor in spelling and foot races.
  • Jim Bob (yes, I had lots of two-name friends where I grew up) gave me my first kiss and my only salutatorian experience.
  • Stephanie taught me to be aggressive and yet maintain my Southern charm even if it meant biting someone with a smile.
  • Janice taught me that “quirky” is unique and how boring the world would be without stilts and 10,000 Maniacs.
  • Christy and Randi shared countless sleepovers and showed me the value of close girlfriends.
  • And a whole gaggle of friends taught me the psalmist was right: charm really is deceitful and beauty is indeed shallow and vain. And fleeting.

In fact, these same friends were the ones who helped me realize I was a leader in the first place. It was a regular day in my high school economics class. Our teacher asked the class to stand and face north. (I have zero recollection what this had to do with economics.) One by one, students began to stand up and face all different directions in the classroom. Lacking an internal compass, I had closed my eyes and tried to place myself “in the map.” After most of the class had determined their orientation, I stood to my feet and faced a completely different direction. And slowly, all but one of the students in my class changed their position to match mine. I was a little shocked, as was our teacher, to see this public display of trust from my peers. And with it, I saw the responsibility I had for others who chose to follow my lead. (And yes, we were facing the right direction.)Julie Pierce

So a couple of weeks ago, I attended my high school reunion as a grown-up leader: a pastor, coach, wife, and mom. I did my best to catch up with each person there: meeting spouses, sharing pictures of kids, swapping childhood memories. But what I longed for was to go deeper–to hear their stories of heartbreak and surprise and victory. And to help lift the few heads that were hanging low; to help them see themselves the way God does: their never-ending potential as well as their impact and influence.

With Facebook and my mom’s trips “to town,” my high school friends and I will still get little glimpses into the everyday life we used to share. I will be forever grateful to this group for how they shaped my life and leadership. Through them, I learned that leadership is not about a position like prom queen or class president, but about being the one people trust enough to follow. Through friends like Brent, Danielle, Angela, and Grant, I learned that leadership is about seeing the potential in the situation and the people around you. The Tarkington High School Class of ’93 had so much potential–and still does.


Julie Pierce has one big dream: to empower leaders to change the world. She does this through one-on-one coaching, consulting teams and communicating with groups through Empowered by Pierce. She is on the board of advisors for Today’s Christian Woman and Gifted for Leadership and also serves on the National Advisory Council for Synergy. Julie is part of the Faith Village leadership blogging community and is a certified Christian leadership coach through Coach Approach Ministries. Her previous leadership adventures included 9 years on pastoral staff at Irving Bible Church leading women’s and communications teams. Julie is passionate about global women’s issues, old-school Amy Grant, and the perfect pie. She has been married to the love of her life for over 15 years and has two superheroes who call her mom. You can follow her on Twitter at julie_pierce or her blog at

© 2013 Amy Simpson.