Do Schools Teach Real World Leadership?

I have been thinking a lot about schools lately. Between my time spent as the Chairman of two charter schools and home discussions with my wife, who semi-recently left her career as a limnologist/ hydrologist to become a high school science teacher. You could say school policy has been on my brain.


The Real World

I didn’t have a pleasant school experience until the later years of college due to my different learning style, but being involved with school policy and helping schools to break the old mold is now very interesting to me. Schools are a great place to look at why we have certain beliefs, and, as they should be, represent the best opportunity to get kids ready for the “real world”.

The latter part of that being said, I think schools fail miserably at making real world connections. They do a pretty good job teaching reading, writing, arithmetic and introducing science and art, but the connections to business, management and overall leadership are often missed.

Any manager knows that training is an important part of the job. It represents a large investment in an employee and takes time. That is way employee retention is so important and the companies that want the best people recognize this and do their best to retain these employees.

The Schools of Today

In school today, there is a trend to have those that achieve the basics in the class and finish their work to help the students who are struggling. Parents of the kids who finish first often resent this because their student should be challenged more, not used as free labor. That is understandable. However, what if the schools presented the lesson of helping other students as a leadership or management module?

What if they spent some time telling those students who were helping that learning how to train employees, how to master content so that you can explain it clearly, and how to develop an outward sense of compassion to those around us, are all ESSENTIAL leadership skills? Don’t you think parents would buy in more to their students helping? In our charter schools, we have lost students whose parents feel they are being used as free labor and don’t value this new challenge.

This is true with anything you do. There is a lot more to what we are doing than just the act of the duty itself. Take sports for instance. It sounds like a tremendous waste of time. In the same regard we have come to understand that not only does it represent fitness, but builds character, sportsmanship, stimulates the brain, teaches responsibility, etc., BUT only if it is coached properly and mentored correctly.

Finding Value in Everyday “Jobs”

My guess is right now there is something in your life that you are doing, and not because you see it as developing leadership skills. In fact, you may not even see much external value in, but there truly is. This activity may be your daily employment or your volunteer duties or even raising a family. My challenge to you is to think about the life skills and leadership lessons you are gaining from that “job”. Go ahead and write them down so you can see them, and practice an elevator speech that describes how these skills make you a better leader in some other capacity of your life. This will help you in your next job interview or to find a place where you can volunteer these skills.

If you are really up for a challenge, ask a local school if there is a classroom where you can come in and present your story about said aspect of your life and what it has taught you. I guarantee that message will help inspire students and get them thinking outside the box… And leaders like you getting involved is exactly what our school systems need.

Keep leading, in whatever capacity you can,
Rad Watkins

Written by Rad Watkins

Rad Watkins

Rad Watkings is the founder of Animal Leadership LLC where he takes his vast experience from working with wildlife & the environment to help bring out the Leader inside you. He teaches how to excel without the complex tactics that so many people live on for their careers, relationships & more!


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