"I think leaders are rainbows. They are not afraid to show their true colors and express their feelings. People who are not leaders are turtles. They are afraid to show themselves. I was a little bit of a turtle, but now I a am a rainbow."
-Middle School Leadership student
This past trimester a group of fifth through eighth graders explored the concept of leadership in their first trimester elective. They began the trimester by identifying their personality style or their leadership "direction" through an activity called The Leadership Compass. They were then grouped with those who identified themselves as the similar direction and were asked to plan an imaginary vacation using only pens and chart paper.
"Leadership is to lead a group responsibly, listening to other's opinions."
"Leadership is hard because you have to listen everyone."
What became immediately evident? Similar personalities led to plans that lacked important qualities. One group talked over each other, one group was all big picture, one group had a plan that included which airline that they would use and what they would eat but never chose a destination, another group chose a destination and had some great ideas on what they might do when they got to their destination but used the extra time they had to decorate their poster and draw pictures on it, never making it to the details.
"Being a leader isn't always about being in charge."
"You don't have to be loud or strong, all you have to do is get the message across. You can be a quiet leader, but it does make a difference."
In subsequent meetings, the students were put into heterogeneous groups and asked to identify how they could make an impact on campus. This would be their avenue of leadership. They chose to educate the community on how to be better stewards of our campus and environment. They did this through an educational presentation and posters around campus on how to more efficiently use the compost, recycling, and trash bins.
"Sometimes you have to be the bigger person and take those extra steps for your community."
"Leadership is the willingness to take a risk. Leadership is the idea that you are unique."
They tackled the issues of presenting effectively to a wide range of ages and to inspiring their community using only their passion, data, and their powers of persuasion. Aside from the presentation, they affected change on a day to day basis using their sphere of influence by talking with their friends and by using the most powerful kind of leadership, they walked the walk as role models.
"It's harder to be the first follower, but very effective when trying to make a change."
Other leadership concepts discussed were the power of the 'First Follower' in starting a movement, how we all have the capacity to be leaders, that leaders need to be connected and observant to be effective, and that leadership is not the scary undertaking that we make it out to be. We can be Everyday Leaders through kindness and connection with others.
The impact of elective was evidenced in the student takeaways at their last meeting. Each student was handed an index card and asked to write on one side what they learned and the other side to complete the sentence...
"Leadership is about..."
...being a role model and supporting others
...helping people and listening
...making sure that everyone around you is comfortable and sharing their ideas
...working with people who may be difficult to work with
...being more acceptive other people's ideas even when they don't live up to my own
...standing up for what you think is right
...guiding others in a respective manner and taking input from others
...making decision that affect you and others
...empathy. I learned how to better display cooperation, but most of all I learned responsibility
..being calm and professional
..letting someone else lead at times when they need to. It's not just about you the leader
Written by Scott Thompson, Middle School Dean