The following is an op-ed by Gen. Tommy Franks, U.S. Army, (Ret.):
Since I retired, my wife Cathy, a professional educator, and I have spent a lot of time in schools. Teachers and administrators tell us bullying is one of the most prevalent and damaging issues on campus at almost every level past kindergarten.
While it might sound counter-intuitive, I believe teaching leadership is the best solution to bullying. And teaching leadership is what I am trying to give America’s youth. Some foolishly think leadership is about pushing people around; actually, it’s the exact opposite. Bullying is about pushing people around. Leadership is about pulling people up.
One of my favorite mementos of my father is his old hand saw.
The first time I tried to push it against a piece of wood, it wouldn’t budge. When I pushed harder, the saw bounced so wildly on the wood, there was no chance of ever cutting a straight line. Then Dad taught me that the first stroke must be to pull the saw, putting a mark on the wood, and then push it with the same intensity.
Leadership is a lot like using that saw: first you pull people to you, lifting them up by showing them some of their own potential. Then you can push them to be the best individual they can be doing the best job they can do.
You draw people to you by developing your character and your ability to communicate.
Great leaders take personal responsibility in the development of their character and ability to communicate. Developing your character and ability to communicate positions you to impact the lives of others and draw people to you. Then you can organize people towards a common vision. You accomplish your goals while truly caring for what we call the individual/team concept. You have to care about the mission, the team and the individual. Great leaders do what is in the best interest of all three. These Four Stars of Leadership are what we teach: Character, Communication, Common Vision and Caring.
What’s this got to do with bullying? Psychologists tell us that most bullies are loners, seeking attention, admiration and the respect of their peers. Ironically, they pick on other loners, kids who have no one they feel they can talk to or confide in. Most of the time they intimidate their victims with size, age, social pressure or intelligence. Many times the victim is recruited into the bully’s inner circle, and they in turn, become a bully. It’s a negative, evil manner of socialization.
We try to teach our students that establishing caring relationships with others is a key element to leadership and success. Developing leaders not only strengthens students to be able to resist bullying, but also empowers students to be able to stand up for others. Just like a bully teaches his victims to bully, a positive leader teaches his friends leadership skills, a self-multiplying concept.
Of course, successful leadership isn’t just visible in school. It’s everywhere. The good politician, labor leader, entrepreneur or boss starts by building positive relationships with others. The leader listens more than he talks. She seeks an understanding of what is important to others, and then helps them achieve it.
Of course, not everybody is going to be president of the United States. Not everyone will be student council president.
But what if we teach our youth to be leaders, and they lead just a few others to be better, to rise above a rough day in junior high, and become better adults someday? What if those “followers” become leaders themselves? Hopefully we could build a snowball of positive leaders, reinforcing each other with support and example.
I have dedicated my retirement to the Four Star Leadership Institute, a one-week experience for 50 of the sharpest, brightest high school students and potential leaders I can find across the country.
In this “leadership camp” our students meet with leaders in government, industry, and academia. They have fun, and compete in debate and writing skills. They talk about the issues that face them and their generation. And they do it entirely for free, thanks to our sponsors, Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis, Oklahoma Christian University, and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.
We fly them in to Oklahoma Christian University, give them a life-changing week, and offer them thousands of dollars in college scholarships to develop their leadership skills.
Do my dreams of a “snowball of positive leadership” have a chance of making it out of an Oklahoma July?
We may or may not have a future president at OC this summer, but we are going to make an investment in the next generation of leaders. What I am certain of is that we will only get a return on the investment we make today.
But I don’t just think it can happen; I know it will. I’ve seen these kids in our previous six classes. They are going to impact our world for decades to come.
If you know of a student who has the potential to be one of our leaders of tomorrow, encourage them to apply athttp://fourstarleader.com/
We invest in the next generation of leaders.