Reflections on Leadership: Insights from CATDC’s Leadership Fellows Cohort

Participating in CATDC’s Leadership Fellows cohort this year has impacted me deeply, both personally and professionally, in ways I could not have foreseen. The essential question of this fellowship is, “Who am I as a Leader?” and this is indeed a question that needs to be asked and deeply reflected upon at every stage of one’s leadership journey. This opportunity came to me after 20 years as an independent school teacher and school leader. Some in the fellowship were at the very beginning of their journey, some in the middle of it, and all asking this question that demands continued growth in our professional lives. We came together as a diverse group and learned a great deal from one another throughout the year. For me, this included a full re-evaluation of who I am as a leader, a female leader specifically. The foundational trust that this group developed was pivotal and meaningful. 

Many aspects of this year-long program stand out, but I will frame my key learnings and reflections from this experience  using a Project Zero Thinking Routine. I use this thinking routine often—in the classroom with students, in faculty workshops with teachers, and with myself when I am journaling or reflecting. 


Having been a teacher, a curriculum director, a division head, an assistant head of a K-12 independent  school for over 20 years, the story I told myself about teaching and learning, about independent school work, and about the impact I had on the lives of students and educators has been ever evolving. At the core of my educational philosophy lies the conviction that education transcends the mere acquisition of knowledge; it is a transformative journey that shapes individuals into conscientious global citizens and compassionate leaders. However, like many perfectionists and successful professionals, I am a “doer,” and when I tick the boxes on my list (and I have big boxes), I feel accomplished and gratified. I thrive on the urgency that comes with change management, conflict resolution, and generally everything to do with independent school leadership. It has been all-consuming and defined me completely. I thought this was how it had to be. How was I to accomplish what needed to be accomplished if it wasn’t this way? 


Leadership is a journey like no other. It’s an inside job. While there are always hard decisions to make in the best interest of any institution, the core part of leading adults and youth is about vulnerability, empathy, nimbleness, connection, and self-awareness. The urgency with which I used to work can get in the way of this core work.


The Leadership Fellows Program encouraged me to give myself a break from the demands of being “perfect.” I will prioritize the human connection and relationships that are foundational to leading a school, with the student experience being the north star. The final project for this program was to present a TED Talk to the group, answering the question,“Who am I as a Leader?” This was a daunting task that I reflected on for weeks and months. The truth of the matter for me is the pronounced intersection of my personal and professional growth over 20 years. I shared phases of excavation, discovery, building with vision, and navigating challenges, embracing stewardship and learning to let go while trusting my team. Continually evolving in my roles at home, within the school community, as a leader, and in personal growth, my leadership journey continues. These reflections resonate with the opening mission statement I shared in my TED Talk from Brené Brown: “Our connection with others can only be as deep as our connection with ourselves. If I don’t know and understand who I am and what I need, want, and believe, I can’t share myself with you.” 

Kate Reeser

Kate Reeser is an accomplished educator and administrator with over two decades of dedicated service in the independent school sector. Kate has a passion for fostering intellectual curiosity and nurturing the holistic development of students. She is an eager learner about leadership and of her own self-awareness and deeply supports the growing innovative needs of our students, faculty, and schools. A respected leader and visionary in the field of education, Kate is deeply committed to empowering students to reach their full potential, both inside and outside the classroom.

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