What I think is True about Leaders and Leadership


Earl Zwicker
09 March 1993

The best leaders set an example by their own behavior.


Leadership in the Classroom [from INSIDE: Fall/Winter 1992]

  1. Paul Barrett, US and urban history...
    ...throws out a topic for discussion, related to a reading assignment. This triggers debate, argument, discussion in class, so students ultimately are encouraged to think for themselves rather than regurgitate the opinions of others. Students play an active role in their own learning in the classroom, rather than passive.
  2. Peter Johnson, freshman chemistry ...
    ..."I have fun." If the professor enjoys the subject, and lets his enthusiasm, interest, and excitement show, then his students likely will also. (Setting an example by behavior!) Telling students that the subject is exciting does not communicate as effectively as being excited yourself. "Learning is fun". I believe "...that the students in your class can make it. You have to believe in your students." i.e., students tend to achieve no more than you expect of them. Have high expectations.
  3. Hamid Arastoopour, chemical engineering
    ..."The best teachers don't teach. Students learn by being involved, not by having the material force-fed to them. By working together as a team, students gain confidence which enables them to grow intellectually and creatively."  "Breeding leadership skills is important, if not the most important, concept of university teaching.

Project Help [a classroom approach developed by Earl Zwicker]

Here is how it worked:

One explains the pros and cons of participation to the expert students:

At this point, most of the "expert" students do volunteer. Those who do not usually offer serious reasons why they cannot. And now the "weak" students take positions in different parts of the room, and then the plan is explained to the weak students. They then pick out an expert and become part of his group; each places his name and phone number on each of the six slips. They agree to a time and place to meet, and write that one each of the six slips. Each person then gets a slip, and the extra one goes to the instructor. Now they can help one another by phone if they wish.
Students are told that sometimes -- for whatever reasons -- the particular group one is in may not work well. If that happens, see the course instructor, and he will place you in another group, since he has copies of all the slips.
Students who are in the B and C category are also welcomed to show up for Project Help, if they wish. They may join a group, provided that no student in the D / E category would be kept from joining a group. There should be no more than 5 students in a group, including the group leader.
Results:
Sometimes certain groups fall apart within a week or two and do not succeed. Other times the groups work so well the students are still working together when they graduate!
In retrospect, Project Help must certainly have encouraged students to develop skills that are important in becoming leaders.

SMILE (Science and Mathematics Initiative for Learning Enhancement)

    Some key ingredients are the following:
  1. Freedom to try new ideas and improve old ones without fear of ridicule.
  2. Many carrots; no sticks.
  3. Open enjoyment of what they do. (Fun!)