By Luke Morton, current student in the University of Sydney Business School MBA Program.
In my last post, What are the Characteristics of an Emerging Leader?, I made reference to three multiplying factors of personal growth, proposing that they are motivation (to take risks), reflection (on experience), and courage (of self-awareness).
I have another: good teachers.
There are not many out there because people are suckers.* Some industries benefit tremendously from that fact. Advertising and education being two of them. But it is not the case that they are absent. One good teacher I know says that the ‘Holy Trinity of Teaching’ is as follows:
1. Show me your students. Students get to work after salesmen have gone hoarse. So turn away from the glossy brochures and fantastic claims. Does the rubber meet the road? Did the students walk away better than before? Are they better than another teachers’ students? Was it just the talented ones who succeeded, or are they all improving together in accordance with an established method?
2. Realistic. Theory falls down where reality faces the other way. It should be comprehensive, but without adding unnecessary details to bridge inconsistencies—the theoretical form of Deus Ex Machina. It should not just describe reality but also explain it (i.e. form the foundation for the aforementioned method). What’s more, the teacher should be able to handle challenges from the floor either because s/he is one step ahead, or has an adaptive model that accommodates new evidence.
3. Walk the walk. People should – in all walks of life – have skin in the game. They should practice what they preach. Why? Ethically, it means you share the risks you encourage others to take. Pedagogically, it means you learn and teach real lessons, not hypothesised lessons. What credibility would a lecturer of entrepreneurship have with you, if they had never been an entrepreneur?
Not coincidentally, these three items align with the multiplying factors I outlined in my earlier post. Because what better example of an emerging leader is there, than a teacher?
A teacher who walks the walk proves that they have the motivation to take risks and thus are likely to have been exposed to a few good lessons along the way. A teacher who passes the ‘sniff test’ demonstrates that they have reflected honestly on their experience of the world. A teacher who (consistently and willingly) shows off their students demonstrates the courage of self-awareness, because they offer themselves up for harsh judgement that might demand personal change.
Keep these criteria in mind when you, potential student, seek new teachers. Do you want to be told about things or do you want to be taught how to do things? Would you like to graduate ‘an expert’ or would you prefer to graduate a practician? There is nothing inherently wrong with either approach, but there is a difference. The former makes the oyster your world. The later can make the world your oyster.
*More generously, it can be hard to judge an expert when you yourself are not an expert. But that doesn’t excusing you from walking around believing everyone!