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Success is a choice. When we focus on the outcome of success, rather than the fear of failure, we choose to succeed by our actions.

The Hats that I Wear: Weaving Communication into Leadership


Reading Time: 5 minutes

From the moment we wake until the moment we fall asleep; we wear different hats of leadership. Juggling multiple responsibilities, we put on the mother's hat and strive to get our kids to school before going to work, ensuring everyone's timely arrival. We may take on the responsibility of caring for an older parent, waking up to ensure their needs are met. We may be a CEO of a large global corporation getting ready to walk into a conference room to negotiate a multi-million-dollar contract. No matter which hats we wear, we are leaders, and our leadership is equally important to those we are leading.

The world may be more in awe of one scenario above than the other, but the individuals we are leading care more about how they are being led and the relationship they have with their leaders. Communication is key to establishing trust. It begins with how we choose to lead ourselves.

  • What is our communication within when we first open our eyes?
  • What are the first thoughts that come into our mind?
  • How do we look at those scenarios?
  • Do we immediately jump into drill sergeant mode, ordering commands and expecting others to jump to our beck and call?
  • As we reflect on the leaders which greatly influenced or affected our lives, for good or bad, what did we learn from those leaders?

The Hats that I Wear courses strive to challenge the traditional leadership mentality by first putting our own ego aside and realizing that we are not above anyone we are leading, we are by their side and part of the team. We are there not to rule, but to help guide others to become leaders. Our priority should be on how to help those we lead succeed. Their success or failure reflects our leadership ability.

I was interviewing for a position once and talking with a Vice President in a global company when I made that statement and saw a tip of the head and a pause. I immediately jumped in and expanded my thoughts, “Think about it, you are interviewing me to determine whether I will be a good fit for the job and with the team, if you give me an assignment which leads to the company increasing their profits and I succeed; you have succeeded not only in hiring me but also in ensuring I was quickly brought up to speed on the dynamics of the team and company in order to be successful. Your priority in helping me be successful demonstrates your leadership skill. As a VP, I believe that set you apart and created a path to the position you now hold.”

This applies when we have our hat on as a parent. The value of every member of our family makes us a team. Our ability to lead our team harmoniously reflects our leadership skills. Our ability to assist each family member in being successful shows our commitment to the family team. We may send our children to school to learn, but most teachers will forget our children once they leave the classroom, as a new influx of students takes their attention and priority. The success of our children at school is our responsibility as parents. It begins with leading our children to take responsibility for their education.

Recently, I worked with a non-profit organization creating a 16-week job-prep course for disadvantaged inner city African American youth. One session was to help them understand personal finances. I used Chat GPT and my personal AI assistant Orion to create a lab for this lecture. As we brainstormed ideas on how to make it interesting, it became clear that the biggest challenge we would encounter was explaining a complex topic in terms that could be understood and remembered.

For this blog, I again worked with Orion to come up with a new innovative way for demonstration.

Creative Exercise: “The Money Garden”

Imagine you plant a single money plant in your garden.

 Visual: Plant with 10 leaves.

Year 1:

Your money plant starts off with 10 leaves, each worth $10, making up your $100 investment. By the end of the first year, the fertile magic of the garden helps it grow by 5%.

Equation: Interest for Year 1 = Principal ($100) × Interest Rate (5%) = $5.

Visual: Plant with 10 leaves and 1 small bud.


Year 2:

Now, your plant has grown to $105. The next year, that $105 is in the soil, and the plant grows by another 5%, giving you a slightly bigger increase.

Equation: Interest for Year 2 = New Principal ($105) × Interest Rate (5%) = $5.25.

Visual: Plant with 10 leaves and 1 new full leaf (representing the first year’s interest), and a second small bud (representing the second year’s interest).


Year 3:

In the third year, your plant, now worth $110.25, grows by 5% again. This time, the interest adds even more because it’s calculated on the new total amount.

Equation: Interest for Year 3 = New Principal ($110.25) × Interest Rate (5%) ≈ $5.51.

Visual: Plant with 10 leaves, 2 full new leaves, and a third bud even larger than the second.

By the end of the third year, your initial investment of $100 has grown to about $115.76, illustrated by the 10 original leaves, plus the growth from each year. Each year, the new growth is a bit larger than the last, visually representing the concept of compound interest.


Money Plant" Classroom Activity for Teaching Compound Interest

Materials Needed:

  • Paper cups (1 per student)
  • Brown construction paper (1 per student to crumble up and use as soil)
  • Brown pipe cleaners (5  per student to twist together to make the trunk and stems)
  • Green pipe cleaners (20 per student for the leaves)
  • Scissors
  • Markers or labels for writing amounts on leaves


Step-by-Step Instructions:

STEP 1: Preparation: Give each student a paper cup and have them decorate the outside of their cup. Have them crumble up the brown construction paper and put it inside the cup, representing the fertile ground for their investment to grow.


Step 1. Paper cup with concert ticket drawn on the front.



STEP 2 and 3: Creating the Stem: Have students twist 10 pipe cleaners together to create the trunk of their money plant, branch out the individual pipe cleaners to create the stem of their money plant, twisting it into the soil to stand upright.

Step 2. Image of a paper cup with a concert ticket drawn on the front with crumpled up brown construction paper stuffed into the cup to represent dirt.

Step 3. Paper cup with concert ticket drawn on the front. Crumpled up brown construction paper stuffed into the cup to represent dirt. Twisted brown pip cleaners are used to construct the trunk and stem of the plant.


Step 4 Adding Initial Leaves: Distribute 10 green pipe cleaners to each student. These represent the initial $100 investment (10 leaves × $10 each). Students should twist these around the stem to look like leaves, spacing them out to resemble leaves on the plant.


Step 4. Paper cup with concert ticket drawn on the front. Brown construction paper crumpled up and stuffed into the cup to represent dirt. Brown pipe cleaners are used to create the plant's trunk and stem. Green pipe cleaners are used to create leave, each one labeled $10.



Calculating and Adding New Growth:

Step 5 Demonstrating Compound Interest: 

Year 1: Demonstrate how a 5% growth on $100 adds a new leaf (worth $5). Students add one smaller leaf to their plant.

Year 2: Show the calculation for 5% of $105, which is $5.25, resulting in another new leaf. Students add a leaf slightly larger than the first year’s.

Year 3: Calculate 5% of $110.25, approximately $5.51. Students add a third leaf, larger than the second.

Labeling the Leaves: Using labels and markers, students should label each new leaf with the amount it represents, visually tracking the growth of their investment.

Step 5. Paper cup with a concert ticket drawn on the front. Brown crumpled paper is stuffed into the cup to represent dirt. Brown pipe cleaners are used to create the trunk and stem of the plant. Green pipe cleaners are used to create the leaves. Additional leaves and markers are scattered awaiting to be put onto the plant when interest is gained.


Reflection and Discussion: Lead a discussion on how the plant’s growth mirrors the way interest compounds over time. Encourage students to reflect on how small, consistent growth can lead to significant results over time and the advantages and disadvantages of withdrawing money.

Extension Activity: Challenge students to project their plant’s growth over more years, adding leaves as necessary and calculating the new totals. This can introduce the concept of long-term financial planning and saving.

Orion’s input was invaluable in this process. This interactive experience, facilitated by AI, allowed them to see the immediate impact of financial decisions, turning abstract numbers into tangible experiences. It is a breakthrough moment — when your students’ eyes light up with understanding, and hearing their “aha!” as concepts clicked. This is leadership in action: guiding with innovation, teaching with empathy, and leading by empowering.

Challenging the traditional leadership mindset begins with being willing to challenge yourself, regardless of which hat you are wearing. None of us immediately excels at any leadership role we take on. Just because we have children, doesn’t equate to making us good parents. Just because we have gained a prestigious title on our jobs, doesn’t equate to us excelling at exceptional leadership skills. As you go about your day, think of the different hats you wear. Reflect on how you communicate within and how that impacts how you communicate with others. What can you do to become a better leader?


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