I just finished a book called "Tribes" by Seth Godin. It is an inspiring book that examines how leadership develops and groups form around movements that they connect to. Godin provides many examples of how "Tribes" or movements were formed because someone chose to make a difference at all costs. He discusses the challenges that arise for leaders who choose to venture away from the status quo and the process by which leaders are faced with tough decisions en route to their goal. The book caused me to reflect on the effect that schools can have on the development of leaders.
There are many elements to leadership but there is really one driving force behind true leadership. I believe that great leadership is the effort of one person or a small group to take the necessary steps to reaching a common goal within the boundaries of integrity. In other words, a leader shares a goal that is deemed important by his/her group (or tribe) and is willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal. This typically will take hard work, commitment, persistence through adversity, and the confidence to carry out the steps. Last but not least, it takes a service oriented attitude to be a leader. After all, true leadership starts with trusting that the leader is acting in the best interest of the group.
As I reflected, I came up with five different ways that we can teach our students to be leaders:
1) Teach our students to set goals and reach them.
A true leader has clear goals in mind and creates successful methods to reach them. It is important that we have continuous conversations with our students about goals. We should talk to them about long term and short term goals. It doesn't always have to relate to grades or college. But our students should learn that if they commit to accomplishing something, they will.
2) Teach our students to overcome adversity.
This is something that coaches know well. Our students need to understand that facing a challenge or going through tough times, is just part of the journey to success. Most of us have had defining moments in our lives where we were faced with the decision to give up or press on. We need to teach our students to press on and that failure is just part of the equation. A leader does not let one mistake or failure keep him/her down. They persist and overcome.
Teach our students to be risk takers. If you don't take risks, you will never do anything original. If you fail, you won't make that mistake again. But that learning process is invaluable.
3) Teach our students to follow when they need to and to have a servants heart.
A good leader understands that they must do what is best for the group. Sometimes that means taking a backseat and allowing others to lead. Leadership is not showing how amazing you are, rather it is more about service to others. We need to teach our students to recognize the strength of others and maximize them for the better of the group. A good leader delegates tasks rather than taking everything on themselves.
4) Teach our students that collaboration and working well with others is key to success.
I am sure that if you ask most successful people what made them that way, many of them would say the ability to work with others. If people don't like to work with you, it will be very hard to accomplish things in life. We need to teach our students to work with other productively rather than give in to their desire to work alone. When someone can collaborate, they are a huge asset to the group. This is not a natural skill. Collaboration takes practice and patience. If we can help our students master this, they will be true leaders.
5) Teach our students to be organized.
I have met a lot of people in my life who have been very talented but very unorganized. In fact, there have been many periods in my life where I was that kind of person (minus the talent). But when we can maximize our talent by being organized, we are much more likely to be successful. We all have different ways of staying organized but if we teach our students to find their organization process at an early age, it will save them years of frustration. A true leader has a clear and concise method of organizing themselves and others.
*Bonus- Teach our students that hard work feels good.
Lastly, we need to teach our students that when you work hard, it feels good. Think about those moments in life where you finally finished something you had worked so hard for. Didn't it feel great? If our students experience this often at a young age, they will want it more and more throughout their life. True leaders know this feeling and strive to maintain it.
If we continue to teach our students these skills, they will be successful. Success and leadership come in a lot of different forms but I feel that these skills are universal. Leading is Teaching.