Students become more effective leaders at SMUS

Over the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to teach two lessons to all Grade 10 students. The overarching questions that students explored during these lessons were, “What makes a good leader?” and “How can I become a more effective leader?”

This is just one small aspect of our Leadership Development Program but it is an example of how time is provided for each student to get intentional focus on him or herself as a leader in order to build competence and confidence. This is a unique approach and one that other schools are looking to as they consider moving away from leadership classes or councils just for those students who identify themselves as a more narrowly defined understanding of a “leader”.

Eight years ago we began to formalize our approach to leadership and over the years have developed a plan to introduce, benchmark, and embed leadership into a student’s experience. At each grade level there is a particular focus for that year specifically related to leadership. From a child’s time at the Junior School, then moving through the Middle School and then to the Senior School there are mandatory opportunities for leadership development along with limitless opportunities that students choose to engage in.

Back in the Planning class, students quickly concluded that leadership cannot be described with a single set of characteristics. Using Type Coach  students determined their own personality type (often associated with the Myers-Briggs test) and received a detailed report. The room quickly filled with a buzz as students discussed the parts of the report that made them say out loud, “This is sooooo me!” After some discussion, students reflected on their strengths, challenges, actions to stay balanced, stress triggers and stress solutions, ultimately contemplating how it would help them become more effective leaders.

Our approach with student leadership development is three pronged: understanding self as leader, building skills needed to lead others, and engaging in opportunities. While the focus of the class was about each individual, it forms a great foundation for students to explore their strengths as a leader. The better we can understand ourselves and gain awareness of differences in personalities, the more easily we are able to learn how our style can enhance the experience for ourselves and those we work and live with.

Two books that I have found helpful related to personality type that may be interesting to explore at this stage:

  • Parenting (my personal favourite) – Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child’s Personality Type – And Become a Better Parent by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger
  • Career Information – “Do What You Are – Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type” by Paul D. Tieger

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about the different ways we are developing each student’s potential as a leader.

If you would like more information about this work or have any questions, please do not hesitate to be in touch: becky.anderson@smus.ca

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Becky Anderson
Becky Anderson is Director of the Junior School. She has also held the position of Director of Leadership Development at SMUS.

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