“The future of society is dependent on the quality of the leaders we produce.”
As the world recovers from COVID-19 and continued insecurity due to chaotic leadership in some countries, this quote has never been more pertinent. While the leadership spotlight tends to be on a political or business level, good leadership is required in all walks of life includingat work, at school, in families, in sport and in the wider community people.
The leaders of tomorrow are developed in primary school and progress through secondary school and beyond.
The schools and classrooms that succeed in developing future leaders focus on more than social competencies. They define competencies and attitudes that contribute to effective leadership and put in place programs that nurtures those attributes.
Following are common features found in schools and classrooms with strong student leadership programs.
A balanced framework is in place
Educators have long recognised the value of frameworks for effective teaching and learning. A framework ensures consistency across the whole school or year levels, forming a valuable launching pad for more in-depth skill development.
Yet so many schools take an ad hoc approach to student leadership development. Alternatively, they or hitch their leadership wagonsto a social skills program already in place.
A well-designed leadership framework that balances competencies with values can easily support an existing social and emotional program, while adding rigor to leadership.
Personal leadership precedes public leadership
Leadership capacities need to be developed in a personal sense before they are put to the blowtorch of the public domain. Many approaches fail because they expose kids to the blowtorch of public leadership before they are ready. Public speakimg anyone?
It’s better to develop competencies in a personal domain first. For instance, it’s easier for a student to speak clearly in front of an audience if they have developed the confidence to clearly articulate their thoughts in one on one and small group situations inside the classroom. Similarly, teamwork skills so essential for effective leadership are best developed as friendship skills in the personal domain. When these skills are practised and mastered they can be transferred to the public or group domain.
There’s a focus on service and community benefits
There’s a temptation to frame student leadership up as primarily a personal growth opportunity for students. Pressure from parents and other sources can be the catalysts here.
If leadership is to be seen primarily for the social good then student leaders need to be encouraged to serve others and enrich the educational communities that they represent.
The skills and capacities students learn along the along the way are secondary to the benefit mindset that they develop. It’s about ‘we’ rather then ‘me.’
Accelerate leadership learning through mentoring
Mentoring is one the most efficient ways to accelerate student leadership development in a school or class. Yet few school practice this 21st Century peronal effectiveness tool. There are four domains of mentoring – including being a mentee, being a mentor, passing on learnings and leaving a legacy. These are all easily incorporated into a leadership program.
Leaders are supported in their roles with an induction program
It’s essential that elected leaders be prepared for the role they are to fulfill. An effective induction program forms the leaders into a team, encourages students to understand their roles, set goals and considers the legacy that they will leave behind. On-going support provided by at least one teacher is an extension of an effective induction program
How does your class or school leadership program measure up? Could it benefit from a refresh?
Spend some time reflect on the student leadership development in your school. School tone, classroom culture and teacher satisfaction generally rate far higher in schools that value and implement strong student leadership development.