What is Leadership?
The adage that we are currently raising tomorrow’s leaders is not a phrase whose implications are lost on those of us that that teach or work with young people. One of the interesting challenges, however, in this goal of leadership development is one of vocabulary. What does Leadership mean? Ask two (reflective or thoughtful) people, and you are likely to get different responses. Ask a room full of reflective and thoughtful educators, and you are likely to get a myriad of responses describing personal characteristics, visionary thinking, intra and inter-personal skills, communication strengths…etc. While the collective of these definitions are all aspirationally beautiful, they present a number of challenges.
- If leadership is such a grand concept that it is only attainable by an individual that has perfect balance (life-balance, not gymnastics) and communication ability and is able to perseverate on grand causes to impact all humanity, then the task of leadership is unattainable for most (if not all) reflective individuals.
- If the facilitators for children’s journey to leadership all hold different definitions of what leadership is, how can students progress toward this goal.
With the goal of fostering leadership development, we have created the Middle School Leadership Training Institute (MSLTI).
What is MSLTI?
Everything we know about adolescents points to the fact that if they aren’t involved, empowered, and in leadership roles then they are much less likely to “buy in.” MSLTI will support the 3 leadership organizations (SGA, JL, and SA) in leadership development and securing leadership opportunities for these students to put the training in to motion.
Student Government Association
Members of the Student Government Association (SGA), selected by peers and faculty through an application process, will play a leadership role in the middle school by providing a voice for the student body and a means of disseminating information from school personnel back to the student body.
Jewish Ritual and Student Life Leadership
Involvement and empowerment is a critical realization when it comes to Jewish activities such as holidays, t’filah, and other Jewish experiences including social action projects. The Jewish Ritual and Student Life Leadership cohort will work with the school rabbi as well as members of the Jewish Studies faculty to help shape these school experiences. They will be seen leading t’filah, sharing Divrei Torah at various functions, and helping to inspire their peers to engage with these special school activities.
Student Ambassadors will play a crucial role in supporting school events and promoting positive public relations. Students will accompany prospective families on school tours, assist at school events or meetings, and participate in other public relations opportunities.
Inaugural Middle School Leadership Training Institute
Over twenty 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students joined members of our administration for the first annual Middle School Leadership Training Institute. The students first were treated to a talk about leadership from Brian Mand, a Davis Academy parent and community leader, who had them participate in a number of exercises to demonstrate the role of communication, vision, and feedback play in effective leadership. Next the students explored their own definitions of leadership and reflected on whether they saw themselves as meeting the requirements of leadership under their own definition. We then watched Drew Dudley’s fabulous TED talk on Everyday Leadership (Link):
“We have all changed someone’s life — usually without even realizing it. In this funny talk, Drew Dudley calls on all of us to celebrate leadership as the everyday act of improving each other’s lives. (Filmed at TEDxToronto.)”
With his powerful words as back drop we broke in to groups to try and come up with a common language for both “what is leadership?” and “Am I a leader?” The students’ openness and reflection was powerful both for each other and for the facilitators.
The participants then separated into their own leadership area cohorts to further explore SGA, Jewish Life leadership, and Ambassadors training. Each cohort’s activities further affirmed the importance of their engagement in both facilitating the tasks needed of their position and in shaping the ways they can participate and grow.
It was an amazing start to a year of shared learning and growth. The students and facilitators all left energized by the shared experience and the tasks ahead.