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Leadership skills: why it’s time to stop ‘winging it’

By Laura Jelly, Future Leaders Project
22 June 2021

With young people now three times more likely to be unemployed than any other generation, there has never been a greater need to put human development at the heart of education. It is these skills of confidence, communication, networking, pitching, managing your mind, choosing your behaviour, resilience and collaboration that make all the difference to whether people thrive or not. If the purpose of education is to enable young people to thrive, we have to give them the skills to do that.

Whether you term this human development, character education or social and emotional learning, it is about developing the critical human skills that set students up for success in work and life.

I was speaking to a headteacher the other day who said: ‘Almost all heads and teachers are hugely passionate about human development, but the truth is we’re all just winging it. We don’t know how to teach this stuff. Leadership, self-leadership, wellbeing and confidence are all essential skills for a young person to flourish, but we don’t know how to really teach them. The reality is most heads and teachers have never left education, thus are woefully ill equipped to prepare young people for life outside of the classroom.’

The courage of his honesty was refreshing. ‘Winging it’. The deep human development that sits at the foundation of who we are, that allows us to understand ourselves, how our thinking and feeling works, how to build brilliant relationships, have challenging conversations, manage our minds and stay well – the skills, let’s be honest, that we all need and use every single day – are being left to chance.

Yet would we wing chemistry, physics or psychology? Would we assume those subjects can be picked up by osmosis, or think it enough for a passionate teacher to read a couple of books on them and create the whole GCSE programme? I suspect not. That’s because this kind of development requires deep knowledge and expertise in the same way as teaching any kind of technical subject. And the truth is that winging this kind of deep behavioural change and human development has far greater consequences. It – coupled with the pandemic – has led us to the skills, wellbeing and employment crisis we’re facing today.

  • 88 per cent of students admit to struggling with anxiety
  • Only 18 per cent of 2020 grads have secured a job
  • 69 per cent of employers said that new grads were not adequately prepared for the world of work
  • 48 per cent of students believe the negative consequences of the pandemic will have a long-term or permanent impact on them.
It’s time for us to face up to reality. The way we’re preparing young people for life beyond the classroom is not working. However, it seems to me that for all of the challenges and frustrations of the pandemic, it has given us an incredible opportunity to rethink education, putting human development at its heart; to create a business-education coalition that ensures we are truly preparing young people for life beyond the classroom; and to work together to turn ‘the forgotten generation’ into the most well-equipped generation of all time. To do something different.

We vote to do something.

That’s why we’ve built The Future Leaders Project.

The Future Leaders Project is a life-changing schools’ project bringing together a collaboration of change-makers from education and business to support students aged 15-18 to flourish in work and life.

Led by industry experts and free for schools and students to enter, it comprises a competition and resource portal, allowing young people to be informed, developed and inspired – building a bridge of connectivity between education and the world of work and equipping students with the knowledge and inspiration to step up and become the leaders of their lives.

It allows students to hear directly from employers, connect with some of the biggest brands and influencers in the world and support them in making conscious, informed decisions about their future. With speakers, judges and mentors from a whole range of organisations including Nike, Deloitte, the BBC, Netflix, Bright Network, Pearson, NatWest and Google, The Future Leaders Project is focused on ensuring students come out of what has been an incredibly challenging time, stronger than ever.

As Einstein said: ‘In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.’ This is about creating opportunity; it’s about working together to set students up for success in the classroom and beyond and ensuring we are no longer ‘winging it’.

If you’d like to find out more about The Future Leaders Project, click here – and watch the video below for a flavour of what's to come: