I attended a meeting awhile back and took the following notes, under the heading “leadership qualities and abilities we need to cultivate in more folks.”
- The key to good leadership is being able to KNOW and WORK WITH diverse groups of people effectively.
- Leaders need to be able to learn and “take in” details about diverse situations.
- From those granular details, effective leaders synthesize disparate pieces and identify patterns, make generalizations, and identify areas for needed action.
- Good leaders find ways to document their work and get others to efficiently but effectively document their work, so metrics are generated that can be analyzed to evaluate individual as well as group performance and goal achievement.
- Good leaders must be able to appropriately and effectively prioritize issues.
- Good leaders must be able to identify solutions to problems, and effectively utilize the expertise, experience, and wisdom of members of their team to formulate new solutions as well as identify proven methods for addressing challenges.
- Good leaders must be able to effectively and tactfully communicate their ideas to others.
- Good leaders must be excellent listeners.
I also noted that engineering design processes for projects are generally of HUGE importance because they can involve very complex processes, with multiple feedback loops and implications for other areas. When leaders want to “streamline processes” they often are trying to effectively:
- Get folks to work together.
- Combine processes as appropriate.
- Effectively shepherd cultural changes within a group.
- Get folks to write down (document) problems and then help propose solutions to those issues.
The bottom line at the end of any meeting generally is the list of ACTION ITEMS. What are different people going to do next, and by what deadline/time suspense are they going to do have those things completed? That model of meeting and generating action items is something that should be integrated regularly into project-based learning activities in classrooms.
We need to emphasize the intentional development of leadership qualities and abilities in our schools much more than we are in many cases. For me personally, experiences in Boy Scouting were of tremendous value growing up. Scouting encouraged me to continually study other leaders and develop my own personal style of leadership through active practice. Leadership can and should be studied, but above all it needs to be practiced if it is going to be cultivated and developed in authentic ways. This provides a strong rationale for regularly engaging students in collaborative, group work instead of focusing exclusively on individual performance in school assessments. Often in life, we are assessed by not only what we can accomplish and know individually, but also by what we can accomplish (and DO accomplish) working in collaboration with others on a team.
All students should be encouraged to be both active students of leadership as well as developing leaders themselves as they progress throughout their formal K-16 educational journey.
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