If you’re a business executive; serve on a corporate board; own your own business – or are in any leadership position in business or education – you should be a bit worried about future leadership in your organization. For the past several years our high schools have been graduating students who, for the most part, are not equipped for college level work or possibly not even the rigors of a trade school.
People often ask me about the changing work ethic of recent high school graduates. Why they seem to have their hands out when seeking employment – asking what the company can do for them (pay/vacations/perks) – rather than selling themselves on what they can bring to the table for the organization. This is true, not only for recent high school graduates, but unfortunately it’s also true for many recent college graduates. This attitude begins early in a student’s school career – usually in the seventh grade. They learn quickly that they will not be allowed to fail. No one will be held back a grade due to any of the following: Failure to meet minimum academic standards; showing disrespect for classroom instructors; failure to follow instructions; and even failure to show up for class.
When students know they can’t fail – that instructors have little or no authority – that there is little or no accountability, true education and respect go out the window. Then some arrive on a college or university campus and their life changes! Rules must be followed – they must be on time for class – they are held accountable for assignments – and they are shocked beyond belief when they hear the word “no”! And for many, it is their first experience being exposed to possible failure.
Those who adjust to this “hard life” and graduate have a significant head-start on the ones who drop out or who never begin. A college degree in 2011 is 1970’s high school diploma — and a master’s degree is becoming the norm for those wishing to advance in their profession. The leadership pool is shrinking. Many who could possibly possess the necessary incentive to pursue leadership positions really do believe the world owes them a living. One without responsbility and one where there is no accountability.
Leadership is not something you can demand of someone – they have to have the “intangibles”, an honest interest in people, and not be hesitant to make decisions. Not easy to do. This is what I attempt to instill in my audiences – the role of “leader” or “CEO” is not an easy one. I’ve worked with nearly half of the Fortune 500 CEO’s. There are some who are truly excellent. There are others who I would rank a bit lower. My concern, is where are the leaders for the next 10-15 years coming from? Educationally, we’re being left in the dust by countries all around the globe. When Russia launched Sputnit in the late ’50’s, our country hit the panic button and educational leaders responded with a major push on science in our high schools and universities. We need a similiar push right now – in leadership training.
As one member of a recent audience asked, “Where are we going to find the leaders to follow us”? Right now they don’t see them in huge numbers — and I tell them to contact me for assistance!