Great Question:

I was recently chatting with a student about Leadership.  In the course of the conversation, I said the words “old school – new school”.  The young mind interrupted me and asked a very interesting question at that moment.  “Where did the phrase 'old school – new school' come from?"

My immediate instinct was to answer the question, however, I was fortunate to have once been taught that when asked a question, the first thing to do is pause, think, and then reply with a question.  So… I paused for a second and then I asked… “What do you think “old school – new school” means?

The student said, “I think it means when older people used to do it one way and younger people now try to do it another way.”

I said, “that’s a pretty good definition.  I was taught that it had to do with old people thinking a certain way while young people think another way.  Let’s see what google says…”

We Googled it

We did a quick search and found all sorts of variations on what “old school – new school” means to people.  Most of them were variations on describing the choices, behaviors and thoughts of an older generation versus a younger way of thinking and acting.  In some cases, people were arguing and fighting over whether old school or new school was better. 

The young mind asked… “How does this apply to leadership?”

How does it apply to Leadership?

Another impressive question, I thought.  This young mind is curious and wants to learn.  Impressive!

In a previous blog I wrote about the Seven (7) Traits of Leadership.

Great Leaders:

1.      Process Information – (they are constantly learning)

2.      Organize It – (they define what success looks like)

3.      Prioritize It – (they define goals an steps to take)

4.      Enroll Others – (they communicate with emotional intelligence (EQ).

5.      Communicate the Vision – (they listen, share, & motivate)

6.      Bring the Vision to a Close – (they focus daily)

7.      Reinvent as Necessary – (they stay open to what’s possible)

I shared with the young mind my thoughts between old school and new school and how it applies to leadership.

Old School

We discussed how today we live in a world that moves fast, very fast.  It’s arguably the most transformative time in the history of humankind. 

Seventy-six percent (76%) of the U.S. population was born before the year 2,000.  Google and Texting was hardly anything 20 years ago.  Facebook launched about 2005 and the first iPhone was sold in 2007.  That’s just 12 years ago. 

As a result of this growth in technologies, we’re now arguably experiencing the most extreme generation gap this world has ever experienced.  This is the only time in history where parents and grandparents literally did not grow up in the same world that the coming generations are inheriting.

Old School leadership is about setting expectations based on a set of values that the leader has grown to believe in and accept as their own and represent their definition of success.  In most cases, these values are genuinely good and they're aligned with an admirable purpose.  Old school leadership instills discipline, focus and accountability from the top down in those around them. 

The key difference in Old School is the word “believe”.  Old School leadership is generally based on a small but proven group of effective lessons that have been learned from previous generations.  Old school learned their lessons through teachers, parents, mentors, books and experiences.

New School

Today, we have more transparency to what’s going on around the world than ever before.   In an internet minute, there are millions and millions of Tweets, Snaps, Text, Emails, etc.  There are millions and millions of posts, opinions, ideas and thoughts.

In an internet minute,  the new school generation can see behind the curtains.  New school is growing up with visibility to the choices, behaviors and the mistakes that old school has made or the accomplishments and mistakes previous generations have made. 

New school is listening to the opinions, thoughts and perspectives and then forming their own thoughts.  The challenge for new school is simply the volume of information they need to process.

New school enjoys learning.  New school is being conditioned to learn fast.  We all are in some respect.  New school craves time to pause and consider what they are learning and how it applies to helping them.  At the core, humans are self-centered.  We look out for our own safety first.  It’s a survival instinct. 

Old school feels safe in what they have learned and have done before.  Things often worked out.  New school feels a little less safe due to what they are growing up seeing and learning.  (Interesting Fact:  Prescriptions being written for teenage anxiety are increasing at a rate of 800% year over year.)

New school leaders understand this.  New school leaders understand that before they can lead a team, they must first understand and establish a common vision with each member of the team.  Only then, are they empowered to lead with confidence.

New school leaders understand that the vision they are sharing/selling is now competing with an unprecedented volume of conflicting and varying messages available at everyone’s fingertips.

New school leaders lead with questions to understand the individuals they are leading.  New school leaders establish a common vision with those that they are leading.  New school leaders expose their vulnerabilities and communicate with emotional intelligence and new school leaders connect with an individual the way the individual needs to be connected with.

One size no longer fits all.  New school leaders understand that no two people are the same and no two people have been exposed to all the same experiences, moments and influences in life.

New school leaders align the vision of those they are leading with their vision and THEN they set expectations, goals, steps and discuss the fears they’ll need manage to build what they need to build, to achieve the vision. 

New school leaders enroll the new school in being part of the solution and they understand that when there’s a common vision, you can achieve way more than you ever thought was possible.

The new school leader is now a facilitator and actively involved in helping the new school.  They check-in and check progress towards the vision.  They don’t hesitate to respectfully confront when choices and behaviors are out of alignment with the agreed upon vision.

Both old school and new school recognize the need for personal accountability.

How we get to personal accountability is what’s changing today.  Today, we mush first establish a common vision with those we intend to lead.  Otherwise, what is there to hold them accountable to?

As humans, we strive to continually learn from the best of the best.  If we're not growing, we're dying.  New school leaders embrace the concept of continuous learning from all of those around them while never losing site of their vision.  New school leaders listen and learn from the best of the best in old school leaders.  

Ponder this:  Perhaps there only needs to be "one school".  A school in which we are all active and ongoing learners in the quest to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.  That's what a global culture of personal accountability looks like.

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