Questions before you lead or teach

December 19, 2016 by Joshua
in Education, Entrepreneurship, Leadership

In his recent post, “Make the Work Worth Doing,” Chris Lehmann, founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy, lists questions tremendously useful for leaders or anyone who wants to engage others and create meaning in their work.

His perspective reinforces how important how you lead or teach is compared to what you do or teach. If you think you can’t learn from a high school principal how to improve your skills to lead, engage, enable, and create meaning for others, how many of the following questions from his post (edited to include leadership contexts) would you answer yes to in the past few times you led or taught others?

  • Does the student or person you lead have the choice to personalize the work to reflect their own ideas?
  • Does the work have an audience beyond just student to teacher or you?
  • Does the work lend itself to a performance task that gives the student or person you lead a chance to create a unique artifact of their learning or work?
  • Does the work look different for different kids in the class or members of your team?
  • Does the work empower the student or person you’re leading to look at the world we live in today differently?
  • Does the work enable the student or teammate to do something in their world today?
  • Does the student or teammate understand how the work improves their ability in a skill they care about?
  • Does the student or teammate understand why the content is of value to them as a citizen of the world today?
  • Does the work give the student or teammate the opportunity to challenge or dig deeper into an idea or a belief that the student or teammate has held?

After you reflect on Chris’s questions, here are some from me:

  • How many leaders or teachers of your do you think could answer yes to all these questions?
  • Do you wish people who led and taught you could answer yes to all of them?
  • Do you want to be someone who naturally leads and teaches this way?

Learning from Chris has led me to lead and teach from the perspective (followed by dedicated practice) these questions imply. I have a lot to learn, but I credit that perspective for the student reviews I get like these:

“This is one of the greatest classes I have ever taken. It was engaging, thought provoking, challenging, and fun. Josh is an incredible teacher, mentor, and friend to everyone in the class who is passionate about the subject matter. If I could take this class all over again, I would”

“10/10 would take again! I loved every second of this class, but what’s cooler, is that I think I may have loved the homework even more.”

“I cannot even begin to express how much I have enjoyed this course. It is by far the best class I have taken while at NYU. Thank you, Josh, for your time, wisdom, and passion. It made an incredible impact on my life.”

“As a senior, this was the first course that challenged me, asking me to think outside my comfort zones. Yet, it is also where I developed a strong network of supporters through group projects.”

“Message for future students: Take the course seriously. Take advantage of every aspect of the course. In my seven semesters at NYU, it’s easily been one of the most valuable courses I’ve taken; please give it the time it deserves. Don’t be scared to reach out to people, anyone at all, for advice. The worst they can say is no and the best is invaluable.”

“Take the course! As a senior, I think it’s incredibly necessary for students to be equipped with some business knowledge before going into the ‘real world.’ Furthermore, the class taught me how to create sustainable solutions to remedy problems I’m passionate about. I’m incredibly grateful for the business and social tools I gained from this course.”

“This course really changed by definition of “Leadership.” Joshua is an amazing professor. He taught this class in a way that we learned about ourselves and then to understand others. He taught us how to find the real emotions and beliefs behind someone’s behavior and use that emotion to lead them and make them feel understood.”

“I truly hope other NYU students have the privilege of taking this course. It is the exact material that students of my generation need in order to tackle the unknown beyond graduation and in our everyday.”

“This course teaches leadership not just by reading theory, but actually putting the theory into practice. In most classes we are forced to regurgitate information back to the professor, in this class we are taught to be self-accountable, which is a skill everyone should have. What I learned in this class will stick with me for life. I can’t say that about every SPS class. This course was refreshing.”

“Absolutely. I would recommend this course not just to peers, but anyone interested in leadership. Honestly, even if you don’t care about being a leader, this is the kind of class which can help anyone grow as a person, not only bettering themselves in terms of leadership, but also in terms of self actualization. The social skills you learn in this class have never been taught to me in an academic environment. I suggest SPS keep this course because it’s one of a kind.”

“Uniquely distinct from any previous NYU course I have taken thus far. Professor Spodek was exceptionally adept at teaching this course’s material … this class was clearly structured and well thought out. It would be impossible for one not to recognize the amount of time, passion, and dedication Professor Spodek invested in this course … it had a profound impact on me personally.”

“This is the most influential yet relaxing class that I have ever taken in my life. … I really loved, enjoyed it, and constantly amazed by how much I learned more and more over the course of practicing Joshua’s exercises. … This is a mutual experiential seminar for both students and professor to explore the meaning of leaderships. … this is a really great class that I will recommend to my friends.”

My point in this post is to share Chris’s perspective. I’ll also share the link where you can take my classes in leadership and entrepreneurship online from anywhere in the world.

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