In my personal pool of education experiences, many a leadership text swims. In this mental library of directives, I’m continuously struck by the inclusivity of Chris Lowney. He posits that we are all leaders, in the act of continuous leadership; the question isn’t whether, it’s about quality (2003).
As adults, we can readily recall leaders in our past or present who embody qualities about which all the best of leadership books should exalt. In contrast, we can likely also decry a caliber which did leadership all wrong. The stories of these experiences help us define our own leadership style, embracing what serves us and abandoning what does not. Further, the ability to discern and embody effective leadership attributes is woven throughout the CliftonStrengths domains, one of many instruments tuned to highlight talent in individuals. We know, or can find out, what makes a leader and evaluate ourselves and each other accordingly. What may surprise some is that these same attributes are found in learning standards for Washington students.
In short, students do not have to enroll in an iteration of a class rife with ice breakers, community service projects, and goal setting to develop leadership abilities. These activities can certainly support student leadership, yet not all students will access these experiences. All K-12 students will, by virtue of education policy, encounter state standards geared toward college and career-ready learning opportunities in which leadership is a foundation.
While some might consider it a stretch to state we are all teachers of leadership, Lowney would remind us it’s a question of leadership efficacy and influence. Any cursory search through the Washington State K-12 Learning Standards finds the following examples:
Theater Arts, Anchor Standard 3
Refine and complete artistic work.
Use leadership, interpersonal, communication, and organizational skills to fulfill management responsibilities for a production.
Social Studies, Grade 12
The cognitive demand of the [grade level expectations] is primarily evaluation in an effort to leave these graduating students ready to become active citizens and leaders of their communities, the nation, and the world.
Physical Education, Standard 4
Students will exhibit responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others.
Assume a leadership role in a physical activity setting.
Career and Technical Education, Exploratory and Preparatory
All students demonstrate leadership and employability skills integrated in the approved curriculum framework and applied in real-world family, community, business/industry applications.
Washington educators are leadership teachers. Our role ranges from modeling ethical conduct to directly delivering learning opportunities for youth to develop leadership skills. Further, this identification is far-reaching in how we conduct our careers in the promotion of successful future generations, for
“Leadership is not a job, not a role one plays at work and then puts aside during the commute home in order to relax and enjoy real life. Rather, leadership is the leader’s real life.” – Chris Lowney
Lowney, C. (2003). Heroic leadership: Best practices from a 450-year-old company that changed the world. Chicago, IL: Loyola Press.