Aspirational students on the verge of leaving safe, supportive school environments will need to know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, be aware of what ignites their energy and passion, have a vision, and understand what it takes to be a leader.
Since one’s work is likely to take up a significant slice of one’s time, it is important that throughout their school careers, students are constantly exposed to a broad curriculum. We must give them plenty of opportunities to venture outside their comfort zones; to “We are empowered when we live by values true to our inner-selves.”try out all kinds of experiences so as to identify what they enjoy, where their talents lie and, conversely, what they don’t find stimulating and don’t excel at.
It behoves students to reflect on the peaks and troughs of their experiences and their feelings - highs and lows. The insights gained from critical thinking help to zone in on what is life-enriching and good for their wellbeing, as well as what they should probably avoid.
Few of us are conscious of how our personal values reflect our priorities, and how they act as guideposts for our thought processes, our decision-making, and our actions when we face crossroads in life. However, we are empowered and energised when we deliberately live by values that resonate with our true, inner selves, and those that are in alignment with our moral compass. If we go against them, we haemorrhage our energy and are weakened. It is therefore vital that students gain a good grasp of their core values. The free Personal Values Assessment made available from the Barrett Values Centre is an enlightening tool that can steer students in worthwhile directions at the outset of their post-school careers.
Vision and goals
For students to succeed, they need a vision of where they are heading and goals that will act as milestones along the way. Every journey requires planning, and a SMART framework can assist with preparations and generate informed choices:
A SWOT analysis (examining personal, internal Strengths and Weaknesses, plus external Opportunities and Threats) is conducive to students determining clear objectives, ensuring they know how to manage personal factors well with growth mindsets, while taking on board external factors that will inevitably impact their voyage. The exercise can expose elements they might encounter along the way, which students can begin to consider so as to be well prepared for creatively and advantageously exploiting them, should they crop up.
Motivation sets the tone. It’s important for students to spend some time identifying some of the critical differences between leaders and managers. Unlike management, leadership cannot be taught, but it can certainly be learned and enhanced through coaching and mentoring.
Some people may not seem to have the flare and qualities to be an inspirational, enthusiastic leader - one who nurtures followers so they too flourish and succeed. However, when they latch onto what they are passionate about, a student’s whole demeanour can change. It’s vital not to underestimate their potential.
Leaders set direction and facilitate progress, transformatively guiding and directing groups of people or organisations. They have personal charisma “Personal integrity is critical.”that attracts followers. They need to create trust, and so personal integrity is critical. They display passion that sells their endeavour, and are driven by achievement. They are fired up by the excitement of their vision, and are not averse to taking risks, opening up new roads. They give credit where it’s due, and accept blame when things go pear-shaped. Failings provide food for thought.
For students to succeed, they require strong desire, commitment and determination to reach their destinations. They need to consider what it takes to be successful, so they can figure out appropriate learning strategies, develop necessary skills and capacities, and reduce the chances of acting blindly, wasting precious time, resources and opportunities.
Students will need to determine the most effective routes to achieve their desired outcomes. However, flexibility is key - especially when they need to revise some of their plans, and possibly explore new solutions in order to triumph in navigating their way through life’s challenges. Some essential learning will feel tedious, and some will be exhilarating. It will all take time, so patience and perseverance are vital.
Students need to monitor their progress and results, constantly mapping them against their plans, taking corrective action, and even amending their objectives.
Inevitably, travellers will encounter the unexpected; setbacks, barriers, challenges, problems, clashes, failings and vulnerabilities. Personal values can provide the strength needed in tricky situations. It’s important that pupils remain true to themselves - withstanding pressures and tension, staying on track, accepting failures along the way, and yet remaining resolute about making progress. Shared values can provide a leader and their followers with the glue to stick together through adversity.
Students need to appreciate that to consolidate their learning, effort, deliberate practice and perseverance are critical. Success comes from deep and sustained commitment. They need unswerving commitment to their dreams, otherwise efforts will flag.
Teachers are role models. Many a successful leader has paid glowing tributes to how a certain teacher believed in him or her. Such past role models are both a mentor and a coach, clearly loved learning and nurtured life-changing building blocks for that person’s learning and fulfilment. Crucially, this teacher will have cared about their pupils, and wanted them to succeed. The teacher was a leader.
Teachers who are supportive and use their professional judgement - not just to determine how best to get through a curriculum, but also in ways that look outwards into the wider world - are opening up their students to possibilities and dreams. They are also fostering strategies that will consolidate and deepen their students’ learning, and in doing so are laying foundations and enhancing skills, dispositions and motivations.
The inner journey is vital, embracing self-questioning and reflection.
Schools that create a culture of leadership promote character strengths and encourage their students to verbalise and seek help when necessary. The adults making up the school community are ambitious for their young citizens, and encourage ever-higher standards. They proactively enable their students to transfer learning to other contexts. They know that working with others is a very powerful means of extending opportunities for personal growth and development. They encourage the listening to others in discussion, and seek ways of helping students to make connections between what is being learnt with what is happening beyond the school gates. They are constantly extending their own knowledge and practices, gently helping students realise what they don’t yet know.
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