Can Leadership Be Taught? Two New Courses Address the Question
Leaders in today’s complex and increasingly participative world need empathy, respect for others, and an ability to help build consensus. As a complement to existing Quaker education courses – which begin in Preschool – and the philosophy electives offered for older students, two new Upper School courses were introduced this year. They reflect Moorestown Friends’ commitment to instill these values in students and prepare them for future leadership.
The first, Leadership: Style and Skills, is an introduction to leadership theory and practice. In addition to studying well-known approaches, the class focuses on Servant Leadership, in which serving others is prioritized. Popularized by Quaker management scientist Robert Greenleaf, Servant Leadership calls for those in leadership to share their power and encourage others’ growth.
In November, the Styles and Skills class met with Howard Stoeckel, Vice Chairman and former President and CEO of Wawa. He emphasized Servant Leadership as one of the things that makes Wawa unique. “The days of a title signifying respect are disappearing,” Stoeckel said. “True leadership is the ability to influence people, with or without a job title. Good leaders give other people credit.”
The class also enjoyed visits from business leaders such as Vernon Hill, Mindy Holman, and Len Shapiro ’60. Students gave oral presentations, role-played difficult leadership situations, and assessed peers’ strengths and weaknesses. The course culminated in a paper and speech by each student on his or her authentic leadership style.
A second course, Peer Leadership, provides seniors with the opportunity to mentor ninth grade students on a weekly basis. The 16 upperclassmen, who must apply for the mentorship positions, lead discussions of moral and ethical issues relevant to the student body. As part of the curriculum, the senior leaders meet with faculty advisors, and they provide support to freshmen throughout their transition from Middle to Upper School.
These unique offerings, combined with a rigorous academic program, aim to create productive and public-spirited leaders.