By Joe Bush
In February of 2015, I was fortunate enough to attend the John Maxwell Team Leadership Certification Program. It was the best professional development I ever experienced, and the knowledge I learned from that conference fundamentally altered they way in which I teach. The most important pieces of information that I took away from the three-day conference are as follows: 1. The best leaders are those who have the greatest influence, 2. Leaders need to serve, 3. Leaders need to add value to people and 4. Expectations drive beliefs and beliefs drive behavior.
As a teacher, I have always considered myself a leader. However, for much of my career, I was a positional leader. A positional leader is someone who leads because someone else gave them a position. An example might be an NFL head coach who was handpicked by the owner, but is unable to influence the players. That type of teacher rarely has success in the classroom because they use their position to hold it over students. After hearing John Maxwell (The Number One Leadership Guru in the World) speak, I began to think differently about teaching. If I were going to truly change the minds and hearts of students and educate them they way that I saw fit, I was going to need to serve them. The second part was adding value to the lives of the students.
I would like to explain more on the notion of serving others and adding value through an example. This year I was blessed with the opportunity to teach a leadership through service course. What I quickly realized was that my students had great ideas, were already influential in their own circles and they all loved to serve. After hearing Maxwell speak I realized that instead of pushing my own leadership agenda at the beginning of the year I should have focused on helping each student become more influential using their own strengths. For some it may have been through public speaking, others it was through organization and still others just needed encouragement. After coming back from the conference, I quickly changed my agenda in time to help the students succeed in our St. Baldrick’s charity drive. As I incorporated Maxwell’s ideas, I could quickly see how the students grew in an explosive fashion. I helped my students enhance what they already did well.
The final piece to the puzzle was the idea that expectations drive belief and belief drives behavior. Motivational speaker and entrepreneur Paul Martinelli talked about how he overcame stuttering and the fact that he was a high school dropout to build several million-dollar businesses. Paul said that belief drives behavior. Therefore, if we think we are stupid, our behaviors are stupid. However, because expectations drive beliefs, as a teacher it is our job to set expectations for our students to live up to. When we set those expectations, hold students accountable and provide supports to assist them, students achieve more.
What I found to be the best part of the Maxwell training was the fact that serving and adding value to others is something that can be done regardless of your position. Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” This is true because leadership is influence. So, regardless of your position, you can always strive to be more influential, thus becoming a better leader. Going forward, I will strive to add value to my students right from the start. Each year will be different based on the different needs of students, but the lessons learned from that conference will forever change the way I think, lead and teach.