I recently had the incredible opportunity to work with more than 150 10th-graders representing their schools at the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership conference in Rochester, N.Y. This was my third year of participation in the regional conference, and I always leave impressed with the potential of these soon-to-be leaders.

In the past, I’ve spoken to the students about where information lives and social responsibility on the Internet. This year, I asked them to think about what being a leader means and asked them to create a collaborative manifesto of their vision of leadership in the 21st century.

I asked them first, in groups, to identify adjectives that describe their vision of a great leader. Then, I asked them to create a “We Believe” statement. Collaboratively, through group discussion, they created this leadership manifesto.

We are the future leaders.

Determination. Integrity. Charisma.

We believe that leaders are made, not born.

We believe that communication is key.

We believe that it takes charismatic and compassionate individuals in order to be a strong influential leader in society.

We believe that leadership starts with the individual being genuine and authentic, leading from the trenches.

We believe leaders are resolute in the face of adversity.

Humility. Inspiration. Respect.

We believe that leaders should listen to the people they serve.

We believe that a leader inspires others to make changes.

We believe leadership requires awareness of self and surroundings and setting a good example.

Courageous. Effective. Empathetic.

We believe a leader should be a strong role model through openness that cares about everyone.

We believe personal leadership is applying past experiences and mistakes to become a positive, understanding and motivational leader.

We believe that leaders are made, not born.

We are the future leaders.

I was genuinely impressed with these students. Their collaborative effort reminded me of the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium standards that I use with administrators in workshops on being an effective leader and for principal evaluation. In a nutshell, the six standards:

  1. Vision: Leadership that promotes the success of all students by developing, implementing and maintaining a shared vision for learning.
  2. Culture: Leadership that promotes and encourages all students to learn and all staff to enhance their professional practice.
  3. Environment: Leadership that promotes a safe and effective learning environment.
  4. Community: Leadership that involves all stakeholders — students, families and communities — and actively seeks partnerships for shared resources and interests.
  5. Integrity: Leadership that involves promoting students’ success through equity, integrity and fairness.
  6. Governance: Leadership that understands the multiple influences on learning, including politics, economic issues and legalities.

When I look at what these students collaboratively created, I see evidence of the ISLLC standards in action, except with young people who, without prior knowledge, know instinctively what good leadership means.

Read over their manifesto again, with different eyes.

  1. Vision: We believe that leadership starts with the individual being genuine and authentic, leading from the trenches.
  2. Culture: We believe that leaders should listen to the people they serve.
  3. Environment: We believe that a leader inspires others to make changes.
  4. Community: We believe that communication is key.
  5. Integrity: We believe leadership requires awareness of self and surroundings and setting a good example.
  6. Governance: We believe leaders are resolute in the face of adversity.

I’m amazed with this unplanned and unintended alignment. I’m in awe of these students who are the future of our country.

During my time with them, I read an excerpt from William H. Danforth’s book “I Dare You!,” in which I dared them to live beyond their wildest aspirations and to do things that stretch the boundaries of simple goals and move into the territory of bold and previously unimagined leadership.

I’m pushing you, the reader, to do the same. I dare you, in these trying times in education, to be the kind of leader who can balance the political with the just. I dare you to demand what is right for children over what is easy for bureaucrats. I dare you to be a partner with your educational organization in ways that exemplify altruism over checklists. I dare you to write your own leadership manifesto.

In this age of new standards and accountability, it is more important than ever to establish ourselves as effective leaders, growing our teams and leveraging our collective talents for the benefit of all children.

I dare you to be what the future of our country is already exhibiting. I dare you to lead in ways you never dreamed of before: creatively, passionately, boldly. I dare you to lead in a way that makes these HOBY participants take notice and say, “Wow!”

We are ALL the future leaders!

Thanks again to these incredible HOBY student leaders for inviting me to be with them. You are O.U.T.S.T.A.N.D.I.N.G., and I send virtual “HOBY HUGS” to you all! You rock! #seriously

Mike Fisher (@fisher1000) has more than a decade of classroom and professional-development experience. He is a full-time educational consultant and instructional coach and works primarily with school districts to integrate the Common Core State Standards, make data-informed instructional decisions, sustain curriculum-mapping initiatives and immerse instructional technology. Learn more at The Digigogy Collaborative or on his blog.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply