Making a Difference: Leaders are Everywhere...waiting...

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Me again on the topic of making a difference.

I came across an article I though I'd share called How to Build Community Leaders of Today—and Tomorrow—Through Student Genius Hours.

In the spirit of Google's 20% time, Jen Schneider, a middle school Language Arts teacher in Omaha, Nebraska, decided to set aside one hour per week for her students to explore any question they would like. During Genius Hours "students get to use at least one hour of their class time each week to explore their own questions, create projects, and share with others."

From the article:

Genius Hour taught me to let go and let my students showcase their roles as active, engaged citizens. Their voices are powerful, and sometimes even stronger than our own.

These connections are beneficial not only for our students but the community at-large. Fostering relationships within the places where our students will attend school and possibly contribute as working members of society is beneficial for the common good.

Our students are future employees and leaders, but we shouldn’t be telling them that we’re preparing them for the future. In fact, programs like Genius Hour are preparing them for right now. They can make a difference today in their classrooms, cities, and the world.

So here we have a bunch of Grade 8 students, whose teacher recognized the value of creating a safe environment, facilitated their curiosity, and most importantly let them explore and find their own way. What resulted was far more that she or anyone else could have possibly imagined:

  • leaders emerged that no one knew existed in their midst
  • serendipity happened - they built off of each others ideas and willingness to try new things
  • students learned real world skills - building business cases, understanding of the importance of contributing to the social good, etc.
  • it broke the artificial barriers between teacher and student
  • it enabled some children to identify career aspirations - in grade 8!

So what does this have to do with making a difference in the world we live in at work? The answer is a lot:

  • potential leaders are all around us - are we creating the safe environment for them to emerge?
  • serendipity is huge force-multiplier - do we enable it or do we expect our people to sit in their cubes as they quietly beaver away on the work we told them to do?
  • learning new skills and capabilities help us in what we are doing right now, and pays huge dividends the more we acquire - do we encourage and facilitate that for our teams?
  • people often feel their leaders are not approachable or we require them to "follow the chain of command" - why can't we allow anyone to talk to anyone else in our organizations if it can help make things better?
  • people can get pigeon-holed according to their roles - but do you really know what they are capable of beyond their current role? Do you really think they have no other capabilities beyond what their current role requires? Do you really believe they necessarily want to do that role for their lives?

As leaders we have an obligation to create a safe environment, to facilitate the curiosity of our people, and to let them explore and find their own way in making choices about how best to do their work. It enables them to figure out how they can best make a difference. In so doing, we liberate ourselves from the burdens of management and share the benefits of leadership, wherever it may reside in our midst.

What do you think - can we do a better job of facilitating others to make a difference today so that our organizations benefit now and continue to do so in the long run?

If you’d like to talk strategic intent, adaptive strategy, back-casting over forecasting, outcomes over outputs, any of the agilities, or pretty much anything you think I may be able to help you with in making a difference in your world, here is my availability during the conference:

  • Saturday the 28th from 1:30 to 4:30
  • Sunday the 29th from 3:00 to 5:00
  • Monday the 30th from 9:00 to 12:00

Posted by Lawrence Cooper on: September 15, 2017 09:05 AM | Permalink

Comments (6)

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This is very much in line with what I presented in my webinar. We are surrounded by leaders waiting to be revealed.

Very interesting this program Genius Hour. It triggers the thinking, exploration and development of new skills of a generation of new leaders.

Hi Lawrence,
thank you for these insights.
I think students are the ones, that will make or break the world of tomorrow. And project management eq. leadership is a skill that can and should be learned as early as possible.
So great initiative from this teacher.

Great initiative.

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