Leadership or Compliance?

Despite the word “Leader” in the title which catches every parent’s eye, the speaker from the Covey Institute who came to our school said they recognize not every child will grow up to be a leader.  He said that this program is about making each child “a leader of their own life”.  The program is really more focused on teaching personal responsibility than it is about teaching leadership skills.

Originally the 7 habits were marketed as a way to make adults “highly effective”.  The children’s book is called “7 Habits for Happy Kids”.

Somehow FranklinCovey went from Effective -> Happy -> Leader.  

Whether the 7 habits are really about being effective, or being happy, I believe the term “Leader” was chosen purely as a marketing technique.

What this program really teaches is Compliance.

Think for a minute about the characteristics you think a great leader should have.  Words like Vision, Tenacity, Decisiveness, Passion, Good Communication come to mind.  Now read each habit (click here to see the full descriptions). None of those leadership words are there.  The 7 Habits are about doing what’s right, making a schedule and sticking to it, being a good citizen, etc.  I can see why parents and teachers are attracted to this – who doesn’t dream of a child who always does the right thing without even being asked?  But that doesn’t make this curriculum about leadership.  It makes it a curriculum about compliance.

Reading reviews of The Leader in Me online tells me that compliance is what teachers and parents are seeking.  Kids these days are out of control! they have no respect for authority! classroom sizes are too big! no one is teaching their kids values any more! parents aren’t doing their job at home, so the school has to do it! we need religion in schools to teach morals! the problem is we no longer have corporal punishment!

As it turns out, teachers and parents will pay a lot of money for a program like The Leader in Me that promises to make kids more compliant. There is no doubt that the perception is our schools are failing our kids, and FranklinCovey, in a great show of marketing genius, has stepped in to solve the problem.

But compliant children is not the cure for our school system woes, and it’s not what we should be trying to accomplish.

Here’s a great quote from an article about raising compliant children:

“Telling someone their child is obedient is (usually) meant as a compliment. But an obedient adult? Not quite so attractive is it? We have other words for that, doormat being one of them.”

And here’s a link to the article: Since when did obedience become the epitome of good parenting

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2 thoughts on “Leadership or Compliance?

  1. You obviously don’t understand the 7 principles discussed, none of them are about compliance. Even the very first one “Be Proactive – You’re in Charge” seems to be the exact opposite of compliance: No one tells you what to do when you’re in charge. Do your research before writing drivel.

  2. Hi Britney,
    Hopefully you’ve had a different experience with this program at your school which has made you feel confident that this program does a good job teaching Leadership. At our school, that was not the case.

    The full text of the 1st Habit of The Leader In Me is as follows:
    ====================================================
    Habit 1 — Be Proactive

    You’re in Charge

    I am a responsible person. I take initiative. I choose my actions, attitudes, and moods. I do not blame others for my wrong actions. I do the right thing without being asked, even when no one is looking.
    =====================================================

    The Leader In Me teaches kids that there is a “right” way to behave. What the child is “in charge” of is choosing to behave the “right” way. The definition of compliance is “act in accordance with a wish or command”. The Leader In Me teaches kids that they are in charge of whether or not they choose to comply with school rules. That is a lesson in personal responsibility and following rules. It is not a lesson in Leadership.

    If it were a lesson in leadership, children would be taught to think for themselves, to follow their passion, to be tenacious, to lead others towards their vision of a better world. There is a difference between a child choosing their own path in life, and the child choosing to do what’s “right”, when “right” means doing what the adults expect them to do – in other words, comply.

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