Monday, October 19, 2009

Two Extraordinary Schools

I'm in Tuscaloosa for four days on the campus of the University of Alabama. I arrived on Saturday for the Crimson Tide's homecoming weekend, and got to go down on the field before their big football game against the University of South Carolina. I was like a kid in a candy store.

Why do I get to do this? It's all part of a training experience they've chosen to do on many levels. Last night, I spoke to a group of freshman athletes from all sports, male and female. They are discussing our Habitudes For Athletes this year to grow in their leadership capacity.

Today, I will speak to staff and facilitators who will be using Habitudes in a variety of contexts, from first year students to student government officers. Tonight, I will speak to a group of students who'll attend a "Habitudes Experience" this afternoon. Tomorrow, I will train student leaders in some of the advanced Habitudes, and finally, tomorrow night I will address parents about their students, who are part of Generation iY. All of this will be exhausting, but exhilarating. I love the fact that staff at the University of Alabama embrace the idea that we must equip students to think and act like leaders.

What makes this month doubly exciting is that I just returned from Redmond, Washington where I spoke to people at all levels at The Bear Creek School, an extraordinary private Christian school in the Microsoft headquarters region. They, too, have embraced Habitudes. I had the privilege of addressing students, faculty, administrators and parents and kick off a Habitudes initiative this year. I have rarely seen a more engaged group of students and adults. They have determined that part of their DNA and curriculum will be equipping students not only in AP courses, but in leadership skills as well.

What do these two schools have in common? Both Alabama and Bear Creek recognize some important recent findings. First, according to the Gallup Organization, two thirds of people (students or adults) see themselves as leaders. 97% rated their capacity to lead as being average or above average. More than two thirds have led something in their past and they see the importance of knowing how to do it well. Further, according to the Higher Education Research Institute, in today's world every student (graduate) will need leadership skills. In fact, from the findings of both Gallup and HERI, we've drawn these conclusions:
1. Every student will find a situation in which they must act as a leader.
2. Students learn leadership best in a community that meets over time.
3. Students simply need a guide to catalyze their leadership growth.
4. Leadership can no longer belong only to exclusive group of positioned people.
5. Our world is so complex, we must engage every student to think like a leader.

How about you? What are you doing to put the leadership "cookies" on the bottom shelf? Are you putting leadership development within reach of every student and staff person? It's time to spread the virus of quality, effective life-giving leadership.


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