Keynote: Christine Simmons on Leadership

Being a leader isn’t easy: on grit, resilience, and risking failure to succeed.


At the UCLA Leadership in Action Summit, Ambassador Leaders have the opportunity to hear from President and COO of the Los Angeles Sparks Christine Simmons on topics related to leadership. Last summer she sat down with our team to share her insights.

Being a leader isn’t easy. But then again, leaders weren’t born for easy. They were born for great. They’re born to do great things.

If I asked you for words that come to mind when I say ‘leader,’ you’d likely say things like ‘successful,’ ‘talented,’ or ‘fearless’. All of which, at times, are qualities good leaders embody. However, as Christine Simmons explains in the excerpt of her interview below, leadership is not without its challenges. When students figure out their internal process for facing challenges—whether personal insecurities or public criticisms—they are able to step fully into their leadership potential and “do great things”. Take a listen.

You can be ridiculously successful...ridiculously confident and still fail. In fact, you should. If not, you’re not taking big enough chances.

At an Ambassador Leadership Summit, students frequently overcome personal challenges as they hone their leadership abilities. The obstacles students face and the strategies they develop to overcome them are as varied and unique as each student. For some, it’s overcoming their fear of heights during the ropes course activity and trusting their team to support them. For others, it’s voicing their opinion in a discussion or speaking in front of a large audience during the group presentation. With the backing of their team and teacher leaders, students have the chance to move into their ‘courage zone.’

The type of experiential learning that students encounter during the Summit is closely linked to the concept of growth mindset, a popular theory in education. If this idea is new to you, Christine’s insights capture it well. In short, growth mindset is a way of thinking about yourself. It’s the idea that through effort and practice, we can all improve at just about anything. It says no one is really a “born leader”. Even people thought of as “born leaders” are those who practice their skills continuously and learn from their mistakes.

Christine puts it this way: “There’s a very big difference between failing and being a failure”. Failing is not the opposite of success. Failing is a part of success. You can’t enjoy the latter without sometimes experiencing the former. When it comes to leadership, the theory of growth mindset and Christine’s advice align. Take a chance and step up, even if you’re scared. Do it anyway. Remember, “leaders weren’t born for easy; they were born for great.”

In the summer of 2019 our students will have a rare opportunity to meet Christine Simmons and hear from her directly what has helped her develop into the leader she is today. Check out more of her interview on women in leadership, community and what students can do today to prepare for their roles in leadership.

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By Corie Bales

Corie is the Academic Affairs Manager of Ambassador Leaders. As a lifelong educator and avid traveler, she believes in empowering students and teachers to learn and lead through experiential education.