The 2016 election cycle has demonstrated in an unmistakable way the United States' need for real leadership. Seriously, just look at those pictures! Too many presidential candidates were clamoring for votes, too many promises were made, and too many positions were switched. Polls were taken and action was taken based on the results. That is not leadership-- that is a popularity contest. Unsurprisingly, there has been a lot of discontent among voters.
As Simon Sinek explains in his excellent books Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last these tactics are manipulation (by making a variety of promises), rather than inspiration. In contrast, real leaders have a deep “why” for what they do and how they do it. They make decisions based on principle, not emotion. Their “why” touches a deeper part of us, which naturally resonates and instead of having to be bribed by promised programs or tax cuts or what have you, we ASK to be a part of their team. We WANT them to lead us, even if someone else promises us more. Simply put, we trust them, and they help us to rise to the occasion. Sadly, we are seeing less and less of this today.
That is why I talk about Williamsburg Academy to everyone I know.
This award winning, private online school (available to everyone) is dedicated to fixing our leadership problem. Not only is this school academically rigorous, based on the Socratic mentor method and focused on the liberal arts and classics, but they also REQUIRE all students to take character building leadership classes.
At the beginning of the school year, I always do a happy dance when I look at the reading list for my children: Here is what the middle school list looked like this year: The Hiding Place, Johnny Tremain, Anne of Green Gables, Little Men, Wonder, Island of the Blue Dolphins and others. We are talking major classics with amazing life lessons at a time when many kids are reading twaddle. (Note: this is just for the leadership class--Humanities, STEM and all of their other classes have equally good reading lists!)
In the middle school, curriculum starts with personal leadership: time management, study skills, cultivating good mental, emotional and physical habits, manners and creating good character--all sorts of good stuff.
Once in high school, the bar is raised and students maintain personal leadership while also learning about:
-Social leadership: how to affect change in the world and move others to action. This reading list includes As a Man Thinketh and Man's Search for Meaning as well as readings from The Arbinger Institute, Brene Brown, Stephen Covey and more.
-Financial leadership includes financial literacy, as well as investment information for planning for inflation, retirement, etc.
-Humanitarian leadership is a (literally) boots-on-the-ground course for creating change for people suffering in places such as Guatemala. (I know-- I'm totally gushing right now.)
-Last but not least, Elevation is a type of ropes course held during the summer that teaches kids to be the first to do hard things, see deeper into their peers' lives and be able to appreciate the person on the inside, evaluate risk and learn how to do scary things safely. It is a life changing week for kids.
Williamsburg helps kids identify true principles that lead to success. It helps them formulate their deeper why. They give vision and focus on the bigger picture of creating a life of value, not just getting through school. The school focuses on teaching how to think, not what to think; giving, not taking; responsibility, not prestige. That is what leadership is really about. That is what so many of us are searching for in a leader today.
As these kids grow, learn and continue into adulthood, the future becomes brighter everyday. I really can't praise Williamsburg Academy highly enough. If you are searching for educational options, I suggest recommend you take a look at www.williamsburgacademy.org.
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