The Leaders of Tomorrow

Written by: Andrew Hancock, Academic Dean, Stamford American International School

Every generation has leaders, people who stand out from the crowd with their passion, commitment and drive towards excellence and who manage to motivate others to similarly join their pursuit. Like any other type of excellence, it doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen by accident but rather through desire, challenge and effort.

As a school, Stamford American International School (Stamford) is in the business of developing the leaders of tomorrow. There isn’t a Leadership 101 class that can be taught or a test that can be given to measure progress, rather leadership, and the skills that make a good leader, are developed alongside the other lessons of life. Stamford’s mantra is to be a school that teaches through action; that moves beyond the theoretical and bridges the gap between the classroom and the world beyond. Through this framework Stamford focuses on developing leaders by providing opportunities for our students to create plans, motivate support and pursue their execution. The lesson students learn is as much in their review of their own resulting success or failure, as it is in the process of arriving there.

It is important to create leadership opportunities for young people to help them develop the traits that great leaders demonstrate, including passion, creativity, strategic thinking and strong communication skills. From a young age, students develop a presence and the ability to work with others through doing group projects and presenting their ideas to an audience. At Stamford these skills are developed further as students are able to run for Student Council and serve as an active representative of their class in discussions around school improvement. There are also mentorship opportunities where students can be mentored by or provide mentorship for other students, enhancing the feedback loop and supporting the development of good communication.

Opportunities for leadership expand further in Stamford’s Middle School and High School as time is built into student schedules to allow for development of long term student projects. Students are given time to explore their interests, ignite their passion, develop and execute a plan, and then evaluate the results. The best example of this is the community service project that students work on over the course of the entire school year. This year, students contributed to the planning of their camp which took them to Thailand. The students selected the NGO that they were most interested in, did research about the organization and their cause in advance and then spent a day in person with the organization learning about what they did, how they did it and why. From this experience students then created their own community outreach plan to execute in Singapore and the NGO they worked with served as their mentor. Students received and incorporated the NGO’s feedback and then worked on rolling out their plans. One group of students wanted to raise money for their chosen charity through handmade bracelets. They created a proposal for partnership and presented it to different organizations across the school to seek their support. By gaining support of other school organizations, the students had successfully created sales channels for their bracelets, built awareness of their cause and created additional advocates.

The key factor in helping students develop strong leadership skills is to give them time, support and encouragement to empower them to pursue turning their ideas into reality. The application of their planning into real world situations and the challenge of presenting themselves and their ideas in a context where adults and peers alike take notice is the best leadership training possible. However, whether or not these audiences give support to their efforts is part of the learning curve of pursuing a goal within a meritocracy. Long term projects push students to think through a multi-stage approach to implementation and demonstrate perseverance and commitment to the success of their undertaking. These are great lessons for the leaders of tomorrow.

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