Because our traditional modes of education have been based upon the rote memorization of endless facts and figures and the useless regurgitation of these facts, we have graded and valued our students based on skill-sets that Google has almost rendered obsolete, in one fell swoop.
So now many of our would-be leaders are educated, but lack the core competences necessary to actually lead. In the real world, no one cares if you know how to spell “leadership,” (spell check can do that for you) if you cannot lead.
Many young leaders have matriculated from the ivy halls of higher education only to fail the test of effectively leading relatively small organizations and find themselves frustrated not knowing that this failure really is not their fault.
I believe this is because many of us have received great educations and wonderful instruction, but have never really been taught how to lead.
We find ourselves frustrated because we cannot enlist enough people or summon enough resources to both staff and fuel our dreams and the deficit is not in our intellectual acuity, but in our capacity to lead.
Many times this is because we have received a mis-education and didn’t even know it. They taught us how to parrot, but not how to innovate. We studied inspirational leaders, but were never taught how to inspire.
We have been sent to a gunfight with a butter knife and been asked to paint the Sistine Chapel-like with a box of crayons.
Let’s look at 5 ways our normal education has been mis-designed to equip us for leading in the real world.
They taught us that knowing is important, but in the real world, doing is far more important for a leader.
The leader must be able to do–on some level–what they desire the people they are leading to do. It is not necessary for the leader to be as proficient at it as is the persons they are leading, but a basic tacit knowledge is needed for a leader to have the “turf legitimacy” and be able to relate effectively to the people the leaders are called to lead.
2) The Meaning of Information
They taught us to consume information. Our test and quizzes were littered with questions that elicited the information from us, but the young leader has to look through the data and then determine what it means in the real world.
Young leaders have to interpret the minutiae data and plot a course ahead. Far too many people can diagnose the problem, but great leaders make sense of the problematic factors and come up with a solution.
3) Team-Centered Leadership
They taught us to achieve as individuals, but the young leader quickly discovers that her leadership is not based on whether she can achieve personally but if she can cause the entire team to succeed.
Those group assignments that many of us dreaded are closer to our real world experiences as leaders than was our individual test and quizzes.
They taught us that a single source was sufficient to support an idea or project, but in the modern real world we are discovering that if the young leader can capture the attention and the support of a crowd, then this can release exponential potential.
The advent of social media has created a bridge for the young leader to use that makes it easy to access their own “tribe” of followers or to tap into pre-existent “cyber-tribes.” With a few thumb strokes on a smartphone, they can check the pulse on a new idea, market a movie, or solicit funding.
5) High Value Demonstration
They taught us how to achieve on high stakes testing. We perspired over our SAT and ACT test scores. We sweated over the ASVAB or cried over the Bar Exam. We either aced or disgraced the finals and waited breathlessly to see the grades posted on doorways like the 95 Lutheran Theses.
But in the real world, few people have asked us our SAT score because leadership has little to do with high stakes testing and more to do with high stakes demonstration.
The punch of our power point presentation, the grip of our elevator pitch, and the inspirations of our locker room speech have more relevance in the real world to the young leader than what their GPA was in their 10th grade English class.
Once the young leader truly realizes that they have been mis-educated to value skill-sets that are hardly relevant to leading in today’s world, then he can really be free to concentrate on building the real world core competences that cause young leaders to rise in any organization, either sacred or secular.