Who in the last twenty years in the world of successful business leaders has truly embodied the idea of leadership better than Steve Jobs? In Walter Isaacson’s article, The Real Lessons of Steve Jobs published in the Harvard Business Review, April 2012, Jobs relates the ten principles of leadership:
- Control the Experience
- Ignore Reality
- Have confidence
- Rethink design
- Team with winners
- Vision and details
These could be viewed as unconventional and somewhat ambiguous principles. Yet for Jobs, they were as solid as steel in the day-to-day dealings of a computer mogul. So how do we teach kids to emulate these principles and hone their leadership potential while being taught in a more conventional, educational setting?
Educators can incorporate these elements into just about any curriculum, but they can begin with team leader-centered lessons by focusing on what Stephen Covey, the author of the bestseller, 7 Habits for Highly Effective People refers to as “principle-centered leadership” characteristics. Principles, and the values that shape them, are key throughout our life. Values are what we try to instill in our own children as the key to success. Incorporating the seven key characteristics of principle-centered leaders into an educational program will allow the students to develop the actual leadership skills needed for the business world.
As benchmarks for designing team leader-centered lessons, the seven characteristics to incorporate are:
- Leaders continually learn—create a lesson that teaches students that they not only need constantly educate themselves and share their knowledge with their team, but they also need to be open to listening to the ideas of those around them. Just modeling good listening skills and talking about the positive aspects of doing this will incorporate this characteristic into any lesson.
- Leaders need to be service oriented—the idea of putting someone else’s needs, or in this case, the team’s needs before your own is an important leadership quality. Just organizing fundraising ideas of any kind and promoting school pride while working together with a team as opposed to just giving the team orders or something to do while a leader watches, is a good lesson in how to model a service-oriented approach.
- Leaders need to radiate positive energy—consistently reiterating and promoting positive words and positive actions in a student chosen to lead a team is good practice for this characteristic to develop not only with the leader of the team, but as a healthy approach to attitude for the entire class to practice and embrace.
- Leaders believe in other people—this is about teaching a leader of a team to not react negatively to criticism or setbacks during a group activity; instead, showing leadership through constructive feedback and finding positive alternatives in potentially bad outcomes. As part of this benchmark, invite business leaders to come and speak to the students. In my area, I invited a marketing company, Utah SEO Services, to talk about how they help small businesses to grow just by listening to their needs and giving them feedback on what they believe are the strengths and weaknesses that the business needs to work on. The marketing leader focused his discussion on how they need to believe in those companies they serve, and that making them more successful gives him satisfaction.
- Leaders lead a balanced life—teams can participate with their designated leader in discussing and then creating vision boards that emulate a variety of their own individual interests in politics, religion, sports, art, and any they choose to add on their own. This should lead to a class discussion about how the most successful leaders in business are the ones who can enter any environment with a variety of people from all walks of life and be able to carry on engaging conversations with anyone because they have gained knowledge through taking the time to educate themselves on many different things and not just a few that interest them. This also allows for a wealth of creative thinking.
- Leaders see life as an adventure—any successful business team leader takes on challenges and looks at them not as a burden or something that is insurmountable, but as someone exploring their best options. So, this is incorporated into a lesson through presenting problems that need to be solved. The leader not only has the task of presenting the problem, but must actively engage his team to explore possible solutions that will ultimately resolve it.
- Leaders create synergy among those following them—this last characteristic of principle-centered leadership is really connected to the first six in many ways. A leader’s synergy, especially when leading a team, speaks to first being a good communicator. Sometimes, that means negotiating with the team to collectively agree to utilize a solution that the leader believes will be the best route to success. It can also persuade teams to action. For example, if you created a lesson that challenged them to create a marketing campaign for selling personalized cutting boards, the leader of that team would have to creatively prompt a discussion about something that most of the team may not be excited about. This is what is most challenging oftentimes for a leader in business.
With all of these characteristics in mind, the task of developing a generation of business leaders through team-centered lessons is a more realistic and conventional approach than just hoping they will emulate the greatest leaders of our time, like Steve Jobs, without any proper guidance in business leadership. At the very least, utilizing these at the core of an educational curriculum will provide a direction to students in how important it is to live a principled and value-driven life.
Adapted from ASCD In Service