If you’ve sat where I’ve sat – around boardroom tables with managers and leaders of all kinds – you’d know the system is broken. And, we can’t let it stay broken. If we want a better world, we need better leaders and if we want better leaders we need to change what we teach them, how and when we do it.
This begins by broadening and deepening our understanding of leadership.
In doing this we need to let go of a number of myths. Myths like ‘leaders are born and not made’.
Of course, some people are born with natural talents that will help them become great leaders. But the truth is, the skills needed to become great leaders are broad and deep and in the main, are learned skills
Another myth is that leadership consists of a specific set of skills and behaviours. In reality, great leadership can be experienced in countless ways, and that is going to depend on the individual, their personal blueprint and the skills and knowledge they bring to the job.
The final myth we need to let go of is that leadership is solely about leading other people. While in many instances it is, but it’s also about creative leadership, thought-leadership, being a change-maker, challenging the status quo, creating environments and driving communities. It’s about leading families. But first and foremost, leadership is about self-leadership. Before we earnt the right to lead others we have to learn to lead ourselves.
As some of you may know, between my husband and I we have five girls aged between 17 and 20. They’re all different.
Sian is the scholarship child, she won an academic scholarship and music scholarship for the whole of her senior year, she got straight As in her GCSE and straight A*s in her A levels. She ticks all of the current boxes – she is the perfect child for our system. She likes to see the path ahead, likes to know what the rules are so she can follow them and succeed.
We also have Lara. Lara is dyslexic, wildly creative, she’s bright and funny, she’s hardworking and she did incredibly well in her GCSEs.
But she’s also constantly questioning everything.
Ill thought-out rules, discrimination, a system that insists on only seeing part of the person. The truth is that schools struggle with Lara. They struggle with her questioning, her disinterest in following the normal path.
Lara she spent years thinking that she wasn’t bright enough. I remember an interview with her teacher when Lara was 7 and the teacher saying ‘she’s just not trying hard enough with her reading’ and I said ‘well she is, maybe she’s dyslexic?’ The response was ‘No, she’s just not trying hard enough’.
Sian, I predict, is going to get a great job in a great company and she is going to climb the career ladder, and I have no doubt that she is going to do really well.
Lara is probably going to be an entrepreneur, because that’s who she’s born to be. So we need Sians, but we need Laras too.
Lara had no idea that her incredible people skills and her entrepreneurial thinking, her questioning, her challenging is probably going to be her passport to success. And if Lara wasn’t surrounded by a team of coaches like we are Ivy House, I don’t know what would have happened to her. Well actually, I do – I’ve seen what happens to so many young people.
When we as a society adopt a broader understanding of leadership, we’re going to start to value difference. And we’re going to see the leadership potential in people of all kinds, and it’s that mindset that we’re going to need if we want to create real change.
Ultimately, leadership is just a life skill and we need to take this mindset in to helping the next generation.
The Ivy House mission is to put leadership and life skills at the heart of how we develop each generation. Find out how we do this.