This is the third in a series of guest posts by Petrina North, Sycol Black Belt and education leadership expert.  Before joining Sycol, Petrina was Executive Principal  at the Parsons Down Federation.



In my third instalment thinking about the principles of ‘LEAN’, I want to consider eliminating energy wastage. I am not thinking here about the water meter or LED bulb type, rather the physical, mental and emotional sort.


In recent conversations, I asked colleagues and friends how they wasted energy. Almost all told me, in their own beautiful way, ‘Angsting over stuff that can’t be changed’. This reminded me of the short version of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer which you may be familiar with…


‘God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.’


Let’s just think about this in relation to our role as leaders…


  1. Serenity to accept the things I cannot change

There are facts of reality that cannot be changed; externally imposed Quality Assurance, DNA, Assessment, imposed deadlines, an ineffective boss, the unreliable photo copier which is under contract for 3 years, emails, parking restrictions. You get the idea. To attempt to alter these would be an act of foolishness whereas accepting them brings an element of peace.

We can sometimes believe that reality ought to be different to what it is and if we try harder, are stronger, give another chance all we need is to have more grit and gumption and we can change reality into something we like more. This is a waste of energy. We need the ability to let go. Acceptance isn’t laziness, more a leap of faith or an act of trust.


  1. Courage to change the things the things I can

However, being resigned to a situation that can and should be changed and is indeed our responsibility to change, is not serenity but complacency.  Hiding in there is an excuse, a reluctance to deal with it.

As leaders it is within our gift to influence and affect perceptions, expectations, behaviours, and attitudes. How can we actually do this? Take a long, hard look in the mirror. Re-appraise and have the courage to change ourselves. Habits gain power through repetition.  Are we working, living, communicating the way we want to? If something isn’t right we have to go ahead, overturn the apple cart, break out of our comfort zone and change it!

We all confront obstacles in the course of our life. Where we differ is how we view these – as failures and frustrations or as opportunities for growth and learning.  You win or you learn.


  1. Wisdom to know the difference.

There is no single tactic that will grant us piece of mind. We must think strategically about the best, the simplest, the most effective way – we must helicopter out to look at the bigger picture or from a different perspective because the quality of our impact depends on this.

There is a time and a place for serenity. There is a time and a place for courage.  The skill is knowing which.  The language is humble, the lesson simple. The execution, however, is tricky.

And wisdom comes with experience…


In the next instalment I will consider how to eliminate wasted opportunity – watch this space!