Friday, July 14, 2006

Leadership Really Is the Best Investment

I have spent the last few days at a retreat with the Centre Posse Number One, the fine group of young people who will be coming to the college in the fall. This retreat is to enhance their bonding to one another, and to begin the handoff from their trainers to me. (I will write more about the ropes course (!) tomorrow).

Colleges face the perennial problem of how to measure promise in high school students. Brains are, of course, a necessary precondition. But brains alone are clearly not enough. We have all seen too many smart kids without the vision, perseverance, or confidence to make use of them.

Academics often ruefully repeat the old saw that "the world is run by B- students." If only, we think, we nerdy Ph.D.s were in charge, the world would be a more rational place. I have been coming to reassess this aphorism, though. I still think it is true; I no longer think it is such a bad thing. The world would not be better if it were run by Ph.D.s. The world is run by people with drive, more than brains alone, because they want it more. They want to achieve their vision more. They want to do things more than just school.

Yes, of course, I want all my driven students to be of excellent understanding. But I can understand that people who want to achieve things in the world now are not as fully devoted to their studies now as we nerds are.

As a teacher, I am coming to see that my main job is to school the vision of driven people. I am blessed with smart students at Centre. And some can be pushed to develop a drive they had not focused before, especially the men. But the main thing the world needs all of these future leaders to develop is a virtuous vision of what they want to achieve.

Because in the long run, leadership is the best investment that the college can make for the world.


Russell Smith said...

a fine take on this theme is in "The Millionaire Next Door" and "Millionaire Mind" by Ted Stanley -- he shows that those who are balance sheet wealthy (as opposed to those who generate a huge income -- and then blow it on triviality) tend not to be the best students -- but they develop habits of resiliancy, perseverance, working with people, and knowing themselves. They also tend to be low key decent folk. Both books are certainly worth the read.


Anonymous said...

How do you school the vision of driven people? What do you think is most effective in doing that?

Gruntled said...

I agree that the Millionaire books are wonderfully instructive about hard work and savings.

As to schooling drive, I think it may be more a matter of not driving it out of them with too easy wealth.

keklemenos said...

Gotta agree with you here.

"Research has found that IQ predicted leadership skills when the tests were given under low-stress conditions, but under high-stress conditions, IQ was negatively correlated with leadership--that is, it predicted the opposite."

Gruntled said...

Many of the Posse kids have lived a high-stress life, and emerged as strong and creative doers. I am looking forward to them, and their comrades, enlivening the college for years to come.

And then taking over the world :-)