Leadership catalyst for change in students

Published 5:15 pm Thursday, October 23, 2008

Commit to your true dream. Find out what you want and go after it as if your life depends on it.

As principal of the Shelby County Alternative School, I was concerned that we were not really connecting with students. We were ensuring that they were behaving properly, in dress code, walking down the right side of the hall, and doing their academic work. But felt we could do more.

I immediately turned to John C. Maxwell’s book 21 Laws of Leadership that our Superintendent Randy Fuller provided to every leader in our school system earlier this school year. I met with Mary Woolard, one of my teachers, and we discussed ways to connect with our students in a more meaningful way. And from this meeting, we started a before school leadership and character education program.

Students are encouraged to read a book on leadership during their sustained silent reading period from 7:30-7:55 each morning. Then, when the student completes the book, the student writes a book report and gives an oral report to Mrs. Woolard about how the knowledge gained from the book will help them with better decision-making in the future. Lastly, the student would provide a brief oral report to our student population.

Leadership guru Stephen Covey calls this the Three-Person learning model. Here are observations from this past month: John C. Maxwell has donated his entire collection of books (45 books); Stu Zimmerman (CEO of Injoy Corporation in California) donated a daily on-line video called morning espresso; John P. Kotter (professor at Harvard Business School) donated several copies of Leading Change; Dr. Zen DeBrucke (CEO of a Fortune 500 Company) donated DVDs and CDs on leadership development; Mark Sanborn (author/consultant) donated his entire book collection including his best seller The Fred Factor; Byron Katie (consultant for Fortune 500 companies) donated her best seller Loving What Is; Azim Jamal (International Leadership Consultant) donated his entire collection of books and DVDs, CDs; Dr. Alex Pattakos (Leadership Expert) donated his best seller Prisoners of Our Thoughts; Dr. Eileen McDargh (Top 100 Business Leaders in the World) donated her entire book collection and DVDs; Mike Robbins (author and speaker) donated his latest book Focus on Effective Leadership; Bill George (CEO of Medtronic Market Corporation) donated his best seller True North; and Justin Menkes (management director of the Executive Intelligence Group and Harvard professor) donated his book: What all great leaders have: Executive Intelligence.

I have never witnessed such generosity from literally all over. An amazing side-topic to this successful leadership development program is that I have parents coming into my office asking for a copy of the book that their child is reading. Are we connecting now? Yes.

The best is yet to come.