Leadership is a great word. What parent wouldn’t say yes to having their child grow into a strong leader? It’s a very smart choice for the name of this program.
But this program isn’t about teaching Leadership in the traditional sense of the word. It’s about teaching each child to be “a leader of their own life”. It’s about teaching personal responsibility. Students are given “leadership roles” like classroom greeter, or fish tank cleaner.
Is Fish Tank Cleaner the kind of leader you imagined your child growing into with this program?
To be clear, I think giving kids jobs, and teaching them personal responsibility, is excellent. I just question if that’s really what parents and school officials have in mind when they buy a Leadership Program for their school. Mostly I think that FranklinCovey showed Marketing Genius when they decided to use the word Leadership.
The Leader in Me program was created by a corporation (FranklinCovey) that does not have expertise in educating children. The Leader in Me is based on 7 Habits published in an adult self-help book that were originally intended to make adults “highly effective”. The tag line of the adult books says it is “Powerful Lessons in Personal Change”. Has your child shown a need for powerful lessons in personal change that will make them highly effective?
There is no data showing that this particular set of habits is effective when taught to children. There’s no data that says the 7 Habits will grow children into future leaders. Given the lack of data, these are nothing better than an arbitrary set of values to choose to teach to elementary school children.
There are many adults who have read the 7 Habits book, or attended a training, who feel very strongly that the book helped them. They are often the ones who seek out this program for their school. There are many, many more adults who have been successful without these 7 Habits, or who needed different habits than these 7 to help them with their personal path to “effectiveness”. The difference is that as adults, we can read the book, or attend a training, and then decide for ourselves if this is the right thing for us personally. The kids who are immersed in The Leader in Me program at school don’t have the skills yet to determine if these Powerful Lessons in Personal Change are right for them.
When we teach these 7 Habits to children as the “right” habits that the entire school uses, and the kids talk about the 7 Habits in every classroom, in every subject, in every grade, they see them posted in the hallways, they sing about them in music class, they create artwork about them, the kids learn (because we tell them) that these are the “Right” 7 Habits. The repetition of the habits, the deep integration of the program into every aspect of the school day, has a feeling of indoctrination about it. So we want to be really, really sure we’re indoctrinating the kids with the right ideas.
But are we so sure these 7 Habits are the main thing we want to drill into our kids’ heads?