Can High Schools Teach Leadership?
A Lesson in 21st Century Skills Education
Is the reason teenagers who graduate from high school seem lost and directionless because they are young or because their high school left them behind?
This is an important question to understand and answer because if the reason is our schools are leaving kids behind, wouldn’t we want to fix them?
Want to know how you can tell? Answer this question to determine if the problem is just being young or our schools:
“What are leadership skills?”
The Foundation of 21st Century Leadership
If you struggled to answer the question, you are not alone. And the reason it’s difficult to answer a simple question like “what are leadership skills?” is because you never learned the fundamentals of leadership in school.
And I know because I was one of the first superintendents in America to adopt a 21st century skills curriculum back in 2011 for the K12 program I ran in New Jersey.
I also have a Masters in Educational Leadership and I didn’t learn the answer to that question in my graduate program either.
Don’t get me wrong. We talked about leadership. We read about leadership, but we didn’t learn any fundamentals for leadership. In other words, I did not learn how to be a good leader myself. It was all just case studies and puzzles I had to piece together on my own.
What you need to understand is that is NOT how you teach leadership.
The Six Steps of Leadership
We have a real problem in America. If you’re an expert in education, the problem is obvious, but I have over 20 years of experience. I have 20 years of extensive research and field testing. It’s unfair to expect you to see what I see.
So here’s what I discovered.
Our system has expired. That’s the easiest way of describing it. Think of it like an old, curdled bottle of milk. You wouldn’t save the milk for posterity, you would throw it out because it’s old and expired.
But we keep “holding on” to our old and expired school system because some people feel “too nostalgiac” about it. And they can’t let it go.
So let’s do a quick test together to determine if our school system is past its expiration date or not. Here’s another question to answer:
“What is the Vision for our Schools?
Did that question stump you? The reason it’s difficult to answer that question is because our schools have NO VISION. Our school system has no direction. Can you start to see why our high school and college graduates seem so lost and directionless now?
If the system itself has no direction, what does it expect it's graduates to think?
We learn what we are taught. And our school system is teaching being lost and directionless.
But I know you want something better. I mentioned that I was one of the first superintendnets to adopt a 21st century skills curriculum back in 2011, and part of that curriculum was defining leadership skills. Yes, I did what my graduate program didn’t take the time to do.
And based on my research and based on my field testing, I have determined there are Six Steps to Leadership.
Here’s a quick preview:
Step One : Vision
Step Two : Set Goals
Step Three : Responsibility
Step Four : Management
Step Five : Support
Step Six : Reflection
Shifting Your Mindset
As you read over the Six Steps of Leadership, I want you to be aware that you might start to assume you know what each of those steps mean. Don’t fall into that trap!
Just remember that I was supposed to learn leadership skills in my graduate program and I didn’t. I did not learn these six fundamental steps.
So I want you to shift your mindset a little. Instead of thinking about how you learned in class, I want you to think about how you actually learn new skills.
When you learn a new skill, don’t you need to understand the fundamentals of that skill first? Take a baseball player for instance. A baseball player needs to learn how to hit a baseball being thrown at 75–80 mph (high school level).
So what are the steps:
- How to hold the bat properly
- How to swing the bat properly
- How to see the pitch
- How to make a connection
If we want to learn how to read, we need to learn the fundamentals of reading. So what are the steps:
- We need to learn the letters first
- We need to learn how the letters sound
- We need to learn simple words
- We need to learn simple sentences
- We increase the difficulty of words and sentences
What’s different about leadership?
The answer is nothing is different, except that’s not how our schools treat leadership skills. When you were in school, you read about leaders and you discussed leadership, but you never learned the steps to become a leader yourself.
Now go back and read the six steps again. When you learn each step of leadership skills, you start to become a leader. That’s how learning works. Assuming you will “figure it out” on your own is an old and expired idea.
It’s time to throw out the expired milk.
Breaking Down the Six Steps
Teaching 21st century leadership skills is a new concept. As I stated, I was one of the first superintendents back in 2011. The truth is not a lot of K12 districts followed me. But I wasn’t the only educator to read the expiration label on our expired system.
The world’s foremost expert on curriculum design, Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs has been leading the movement to upgrade our curriculums to a 21st century approach.
The problem is if you put an expired curriculum in her 21st century approach, you will still get dazed and confused high school graduates.
You are still missing the Six Steps of Leadership.
If you want to become an entrepreneur, do you know how to use 21st century leadership skills? If you want to become a doctor, a lawyer, an architect, do you know how to use 21st century leadership skills to make that dream happen for you?
That’s the problem with an expired curriculum.
What the six steps does is help you figure out what you want to do in the future and then help you figure out a path to take, so that you can get there.
Do you remember the question from earlier?
“What is the Vision of our schools?”
Want to know the answer?
Vision is Reality
Our educational system right now has no vision, so I want to show you my vision for school.
In my vision, teachers, principals and students all learn and understand the five essential 21st century skills BEFORE they graduate from school.
Is that a vision you can support? Is that a vision you can SEE for yourself?
That’s step one, developing a vision. So what’s step two?
Step two is setting goals. If the vision for schools is to teach and understand 21st century skills, then the next step is to outline the fundamentals of each skill. And I’ve already done that.
As you can see in this article, there are Six Steps to leadership. When you learn all six steps, you will be able to pursue your dreams with less resistance and less obstacles.
Take the First Step
You can take the first step to help yourself and your family. Right now, you cannot rely on our school system. As I stated, I have a Masters in Educational Leadership and did not learn leadership skills in my graduate program.
So where can you learn them?
What I wanted to do is create a simple and easy to access CRASH COURSE for you to learn all five 21st century skills. So I created a FREE 5-Day 21st Century Crash Course that you can sign up for at Leaf Academy.
Welcome to Leaf Academy
Leaf Academy is the first online school for 21st century skills. Leaf Academy's mission is to disrupt the OLD system…
When you go to the Leaf Academy homepage, you can sign up for the FREE 5-Day Crash Course and learn one new 21st century skill each day for the next 5 days in a row. And on Day One, you will learn about 21st century leadership skills.
This crash course will not teach you everything you need to know, but it will give you one lesson that you can implement into your life the very next day.
Do you want to be a better leader tomorrow? Then sign up for the FREE 5-Day Crash Course today!!
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