Preparing the Leaders of Tomorrow

This is a version of an article originally written by a highly experienced educator who has worked at a number of private and international schools across the UK and abroad.

It’s a question that has occupied (and stumped) some of the most innovative, creative thinkers of the past half-century across business, education and government – how do we prepare tomorrow’s leaders, today?

Notwithstanding across-the-board cuts to education spending, schools remain accountable for developing the leaders of tomorrow. The workforce that we are going to rely on to take us deep into the 21st century and beyond has to be innovative, empathetic, creative and culturally sensitive (and that’s just the tip of a huge iceberg), so what challenges do we face today that by overcoming them, will enable tomorrow’s leaders to thrive?

It Starts in Short Trousers

The author believes that it’s because of the current geopolitical climate – and not despite of it – that students can thrive and develop leadership skills. As the head of an international school, his students experience educational trips to 10 locations around the world across five continents and he believes that being internationally-minded (a phrase coined by the International Baccalaureate) allows the students to analyse and interpret issues from several different perspectives ‘through the lens of intercultural understanding’. In addition, the IB suggests that students who engage in this sort of international mindedness become:

Inquisitive • Knowledgeable • Thoughtful • Communicative • Principled •
Open-Minded • Caring • Risk-Taking • Balanced • Reflective

While these attributes go a long way to define the traits our leaders of tomorrow will need, they also challenge our thinking. Can a traditional subject-based curriculum develop these traits in our young people or do we need to dig a little deeper into issues that have personal, local and global relevance? Understanding arable farming in Wiltshire will get most kids through a Geography GCSE but if they can figure out how Africa will feed itself over the next fifty years, they will be remembered for a thousand.

It’s More Than Just the Facts


Of course today’s children need a formal, subject-based education taking in English, mathematics, the sciences, the humanities and even (although some would argue against it) a degree of religious education if only to school us in the ways of others. However, it’s what happens beyond those boundaries that has the ability to shape the leaders of tomorrow.

They also need the competencies that will take them into the global marketplace as global citizens and it’s these skills that will ensure they will be able to ‘confidently embrace the challenges and opportunities’ our world throws up.

It’s about educating the human spirit and focusing on the importance of relationships.

In 2005, lifelong educator Paul Poore, the Executive Director of the Association of American Schools in South America said that to educate the human spirit, teachers at all levels ‘should be doing more to actively teach compassion, respect and gratitude.’ We live in a disposable society where if your iPad breaks you demand a new one, if you lose something, you buy another one. That only breeds complacency and laziness.

To grow and nurture the leaders of tomorrow, schools are moving out of the classroom, for example visiting the old and infirm or organising food drives and while this isn’t exactly running Marks & Spencer, it offers a glimpse into a developing skillset. It’s about going above and beyond academic achievement. It’s about the creation of ‘vibrant and challenging learning communities that embrace different perspectives and engaging students with real-world problems throughout their educational journey.’

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we must re-learn how to communicate with each other. While it’s suggested that communication in schools, colleges and universities is at ‘an all-time high’, we need to look beyond our phones, tablets and computers. There is no substitute for face-to-face communication and it develops ‘meaningful and positive relationships between all members of our various communities’, and by ‘promoting the ideal of enduring relationships we build a true sense of community and an open-mindedness to the beliefs, thoughts and opinions of others.’

It’s a lesson as valid in school as it is in the workplace.

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