The Talons program offers many different opportunities to practice leadership in safe and unique environments. These experiences are crucial in developing strong and long-lasting leadership skills. John Maxwell’s The 360 Degree Leader illuminates several critical concepts that will significantly improve one’s experience with leading and participating in the Talons program. The six leadership concepts that I believe are the most valuable to consider within the Talons program are:
- Lead yourself exceptionally well
- Be better tomorrow than you are today
- Avoid office politics
- Don’t pretend you’re perfect
- See everyone as a ‘10’
- Transfer the vision
- Lead Yourself Exceptionally Well
I believe that before you can lead others you must learn how to lead yourself. It is crucial to know, as a leader, when to display your emotions and when to wait to let your committee know how you feel. This is an extremely important concept in Talons because teenagers are more likely to take outbursts from their peers personally. When working with a group, it is important to consider how your words will make your team feel. It is also incredible important for leaders within the Talons program to manage their own time. Although a large part of leading is delegating tasks, leaders must be able to organize their own priorities and complete their own assignments before trying to keep others on task. This is incredible important in the Talons program because we all have individual assignments that we must complete on top of our committee work. I believe the most important aspect of self-management within the Talons program is managing your personal life. Teenagers tend to be very focused on the social and relationship aspect of high school. It is important to put any personal issues aside while leading a group of peers in order to avoid conflict. Furthermore, people respect those that remain composed and professional more than emotional and dramatic leaders. John Maxwell includes a very powerful quote in his book that I believe will be very helpful for Talons students:
“If I can’t lead myself, others won’t follow me.
If I can’t lead myself, others won’t respect me.
If I can’t lead myself, others won’t partner with me.”
2. Be Better Tomorrow Than You Are Today
The most important and relevant lesson within John Maxwell’s film and journal is to be better tomorrow than you are today. Talons is an extremely growth-oriented program that focuses on improving and learning from mistakes. Leaders with a growth mindset believe that their talents can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and help from others. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset because growth-oriented people worry less about looking smart and put more energy into learning. When an entire committee embraces a growth mindset, the members feel far more empowered and committed. They are also able to have much more beneficial discussions which leads to collaboration and innovation. When committees are focused on improvement, they have much more potential to succeed beyond their original expectations. In Talons, we are all passionate learners who are exploring our passions in new and unique ways. We must take both our accomplishments and our failures in stride as we continue to work towards being autonomous learners and strong leaders. After listening to John Maxwell discuss these concepts, I created a table to compare growth and fixed minded people.
Growth Minded People
See their mistakes as opportunities to grow
Focus on development
Thrive on improvement
See their mistakes as failures
Focus on results
Thrive on success
3. Avoid Office Politics
Avoiding ‘office politics’ can be extremely difficult in high school. This is why it is an extremely important concept to focus on within Talons. As a leader, it is crucial to prevent friendships and relationships from impacting decisions made by a committee. It is key to choose groups and assign tasks based on people’s talents rather than who they want to work with. Furthermore, avoiding peer pressure is very important. Leaders that rely on politics do what’s popular and let others control their destiny. It can be easy to allow our friends influence our decisions as leaders, especially when we respect their opinions. Total avoidance is not realistic, but it is important to not allow it to impact the way you lead. Leaders that are focused on politics are controlled by their desire to get ahead instead of a desire for success and cooperation. When a group focuses on integrity and productivity, they become much more successful. Within the classroom, the steps that John Maxwell included in his presentation for avoiding politics are very helpful. Avoiding gossip and petty arguments is crucial when creating a safe environment for everyone in a committee. Furthermore, looking at all sides of an argument to ensure that you are supporting what is right rather than what is popular is essential when problem solving in a group.
4. Don’t Pretend You’re Perfect
The Talons program was designed to give gifted learners an opportunity to explore their passions and develop the skills necessary to become an autonomous learner. As gifted students, many of us have extremely high expectations for ourselves that may be unrealistic in some circumstances. Leaders who try to portray themselves as perfect will not truly resonate or connect with their committee. Admitting to one’s flaws or weaknesses creates an environment of forgiveness and fosters growth in those around you. Furthermore, asking your committee for advice will make everyone feel included and important within the committee. This is important in Talons because, unlike in a workplace, we do not have a hierarchy of roles and jobs. In the Talons program, every single student has interesting and unique talents and background knowledge. The Learning Principle, which states that each person we meet has the potential to teach us something, is extremely value.
5. See Everyone As A ‘10’
The Talons community is extremely supportive of each of its members. As a result, it is important to maintain these attitudes while in a leading role. This is why one it is vital to see everyone as a “10”. The varying talents and skills within the Talons program make it very easy to identify people’s talents and recognize what they can become. People learn the most from leaders that see them as a 10. This is extremely important because mentorship is a key part of Talons. Everyone must feel comfortable and accepted and therefore it is vital for leaders in the talons community to believe in their peers.
6. Transfer The Vision
The students within the Talons program are constantly changing as some finish grade ten and others enter grade nine. The grade tens are often given the opportunity to mentor the grade nines and equip them with the skills necessary to lead the future Talons students. The grade tens must transfer the vision of the project or committee to the grade nines. When people are able to touch the past, they will be more inclined to reach for the future. This is exemplified through the use of old documents and pictures of events to bring power and continuity to casting a vision to the grade nines. Additionally, good visions tell people what they need to accomplish and why they should accomplish this. This form of communication is extremely valuable within the Talons community. Advertising cultural and leadership events to the grade nines at the beginning of the year is a quintessential example of using purpose to cast a vision.