Developing Great Leaders at Charterhouse

Jon Tully is Charterhouse’s first Director of Pupil Development and Leadership. He has just completed ten years as a Housemaster and four years as the school’s Senior Housemaster. Prior to teaching, his career included time as a shipbroker and PLC director, and also served in both the Merchant and Royal Navy. His philosophy is one of character development through participation and leadership through service. 

Developing Great Leaders

Our wonderful world deserves great leaders. Our rapidly changing, dynamic, multicultural, yet vulnerable and uncertain world needs great leaders. How exciting, then, to be part of a school where developing the great leaders of tomorrow is at the heart of what we do.

A great leader is someone who inspires, who cares, who selflessly contributes to the greater good of those around them, who perseveres and gets things done! So the concept of tomorrow’s leaders should be far broader than conventional images of captains of industry, the military and government. The character values we work to instil at Charterhouse from the very outset also prepare our boys and girls to become tolerant, open-minded and considerate partners, parents and members of society.

Misconceptions about leadership are widespread, especially among the teenage generation. “It’s just about telling people what to do.” “It’s all about the power and prestige – being number one.” “You can learn it from a YouTube video.” In truth, leadership is about developing a set of values that enable individuals to have the confidence to do what is right, not just for themselves but for the community in which they live and work. When people act with respect for themselves and others; when people demonstrate moral courage by standing up for a point of principle – even when it runs contrary to popular opinion; when people pick themselves up after they’ve failed to achieve their goal and have another go and when people show kindness, then they are demonstrating good leadership. Leadership is about moving people to follow your example by behaving with integrity.

This reflects the saying that ‘character values are caught as much as taught’, so setting the right example and helping create an inspiring atmosphere is an integral part of what it means to teach at Charterhouse. Enthusiasm, kindness and tolerance are all valued highly, as is a willingness to go the extra mile.

Teaching has its place too, so part of our pupil development and leadership philosophy is to provide education in the ways of leadership for all our pupils, including offering our sixth form a 20-week taught course providing the sort of world-class personal and professional development normally reserved for senior executives. The focus is on first exploring one’s own values and learning to lead oneself before serving others.

Education in leadership will only take young people so far, however. What they really need are opportunities at all ages to practice and develop leadership and in this respect Charterhouse is blessed with a perfect environment. With over 60 clubs and societies, 21 different sports, four choirs, orchestras, theatre productions and a thriving pupil council, there are lots of opportunities for pupils to hone their leadership skills. The focus is on leadership through service, also seen in our pupils’ extensive charitable work, ranging from teaching in local schools to school fundraising events. In addition to our conventional upper-sixth form prefects, we also have junior prefects drawn from our younger pupils, providing leadership opportunities for all ages.

Our boarding houses, complete communities in themselves, are also great examples of pupil leadership at work every day; whether it be a Head of House quietly setting the tone by holding the door open for a visitor, a sixth former running rehearsals for a House play or even one of our youngest pupils sharing their views as part of the House Council. Every House is full of young leaders and they are encouraged to develop their leadership skills in different ways, every day. Our starting point is to get our pupils to see that our leadership approach is simply a way of helping others. Our sixth formers may provide the more visible and traditional form of leadership for the House, but everyone is expected to get involved, to serve and contribute to our community in their own way.

As society and the wider world changes, Charterhouse understands what great leaders of tomorrow will look like and we know how we can help inspire and develop this next generation. Selfless, determined, open-minded individuals with moral courage and a conviction to serve those around them, from a family to a country. It is a privilege helping them on their way and hugely encouraging seeing their characters develop. The world that awaits them will be in a better place.


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