Every Child can be a Leader

I’m very proud that the Cedar Valley, home of CBE’s corporate office, practices The Leader in Me program in many of our local schools. The Leader in Me is an international initiative based on the seminal work of Dr. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

The Leader in Me is a whole-school transformation process that teaches 21st century leadership and life skills to K-12 students and creates a culture of student empowerment based on the idea that every child can be a leader. Leader in Me works in concert with the academic, behavioral, and culture-based initiatives common in today’s schools. The program includes four principle focuses: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, an intentional focus on identifying and cultivating special gifts and talents, authentic learning and leadership opportunities and the development of essential soft skills.leader%20valley%204%20inch%20color(2)

The Leader in Me programming started in 1999 and is now being implemented in more than 2,000 elementary and middle schools worldwide. Eighteen of those schools are right here in the Cedar Valley.

Instead of seeing children through the lens of a normal distribution curve – some kids are smart and some kids are less smart – The Leader in Me paradigm sees that every child is capable, every child is a leader. This paradigm has the potential to change everything.

Schools that have implemented the program are reporting direct and indirect impacts in three general areas: leadership skills, school culture and academics. And they’re creating a culture of trust, accountability and leadership among the staff and student body at the schools. Students as young as the age of 5 know what it means to Be Proactive, Think Win-Win and use leadership tools to solve problems.  Students begin seeing themselves as leaders and more importantly begin to believe they have the ability to be a leader.  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People allows people the opportunity to take control of their lives; live intentionally, proactively, collaboratively and more abundantly.

You may be asking ”why does this matter?” There are so many reasons, I’ll share some of them here:

  1. The World is Flat. Technology, innovation, measures of success have raised the bar on expectations. Job searches are more competitive and, in many cases, international. Our neighbors are now on the other side of the earth, so we’re not just competing with the brainiac in our calculus class, but with people from China, India, South America and Europe as well as every other livable land amongst them. The professional playing field has changed and we need to be sure that our next generation of professionals has been given opportunities to learn collaboration, leadership, creative thinking and innovation in preparation for adult success. The Leader in Me program opens this door.
  2. The keys to the kingdom are changing hands. At one time, it was thought that IQ defined likelihood for success. Daniel Pink said, “The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind – computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers.” Not anymore. Sean Covey says the individuals who are emerging from our education system as the new winners of the twenty-first century are those who possess above average creativity, strong analytical skills, vision, and good people skills.
  3. According to the latest research, IQ accounts for 4-10% of career success. High-touch abilities – capacity for compassion, care and uplift are becoming key components of many occupations in this age. In fact, Robert Sternberg, a professor at Cornell University is developing an alternative SAT. He calls it the Rainbow Project and it evaluates creativity and problem-solving rather than analytical skills. Instead of multiple choice questions, it asks students to write captions for cartoons, outline how they would solve a problem, or write stories with unusual titles like “The Octopus’s Sneakers.” While it is still in its experimental stages, research thus far shows that the Rainbow Project has been twice as successful as the SAT in predicting how well students perform in college.
  4. Hope predicts academic success and graduation better than grades or test scores do. Jim Clifton says students drop out of school when they lose hope to graduate. And they lose hope when they are not excited about what is happening next in their lives. School is not a means to an end because there is no vision of what the end might be. The Leader in Me teaches students more than how to take a test and answer the question correctly. It teaches kids about their options for the future, teaches them to be leaders and prepares them to excel beyond the classroom.
  5. “Collaboration is a necessity for a group to be great… certain tasks can only be performed collaboratively. Great groups, then, are full of talented people who can work together. Sharing information and advancing the work are the only real social obligations…The Lone Ranger, the incarnation of the individual problem solver, are dead,” according to Warren Bennis.. The Leader in Me teaches collaboration and team problem solving.

The Leader in Me Symposium showcased the program in the Cedar Valley last week. The professional development conference brought together educators, government and business leaders along with community stakeholders looking to support schools in developing 21st-century leaders.


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