Five Memorable Takeaways From the 2014 Forum

Last week, Growing Leaders hosted our 2014 National Leadership Forum. For the second year, we held it at the Georgia Tech Conference Center in downtown Atlanta. Hundreds of administrators, educators, coaches, and campus staff attended as we wrestled with the topic: “Adjusting the Sails—Making the Course Corrections Needed to Connect with Students Today.”


It was a genuine “forum,” as several leaders spoke on stage, while attendees both listened and interacted with them by texting and direct tweeting, as well as by conversing around their tables. In the end, the two days were full of diagnoses and prescriptions for how to better lead students to realize their potential.


I thought I’d summarize five memorable takeaways from the Forum:

1. Through the years, paradigm shifts have taken place that became game-changers. From the Fosbury Flop, to the four-minute mile, to the rules of football, to the broken windows theory, we examined adjustments that were breakthroughs in their industries:

  • Dick Fosbury taught us there are times when “tweaking” is not enough.
  • Roger Bannister taught us to do our homework before we assume too much.
  • Pop Warner taught us to capitalize on opportunities when they arise.
  • George Wilson taught us small but visual changes can transform a culture.
  • David taught us to perceive a disadvantage as a potential advantage.

2. Today’s students are often savvy, but not wise about the content they consume. We must navigate the waters of a student population who knows a little about a lot of issues but has not been conditioned to think deeply or critically about them. Even as young adults, many don’t act without consent from parents, Facebook or friends. Making good decisions alone is a foreign concept. As a result, the role of the teacher is changing from Rote Lecturer to Sherpa Guide, Counselor and Translator.

3. More than ever, students receive from leaders and instructors with whom they have a relationship. Once trust is built, even difficult feedback can be given to them. So before we offer content, we must first establish context: care, belief and support. Once leaders establish this, students want to achieve and do something significant.

4. In order to direct students well today, we must understand their world. It’s full of:

  • Gaming—which means both competition and collaboration.
  • Screens—which means using technology more effectively.
  • Visuals—which means using images and metaphors well.
  • Awards—which means properly affirming their effort.
  • Change—which means mixing things up in our messaging.

5. Some of the changes we must make are counter-intuitive but demand that we grasp common sense principles, such as the ones below:

  • The more we prevent (adversity), the less we prepare.
  • The more resources we give our kids, the less resourceful they become.
  • As we obsessively protect kids, they can accrue fears about those dangers.
  • When we refuse to let kids risk, they fail to become risk-takers.
  • As adults control environments, we create dependent kids who remain kids.

May I whet your appetite for next year? Our theme will be Communicate Better.” We plan to offer the most relevant and profound insights on how to communicate better with students, colleagues, parents, and the team you lead. We’ll host it June 25-26, 2015, in Atlanta, GA. This will be ideal for leaders at all levels, but especially executive-level leaders. We’ll resource you to speak the “language of leadership.” To get the Early, Early Bird Discount, Register now. I can hardly wait!


Five Memorable Takeaways From the 2014 Forum