Are new college graduates ready to handle leadership in the workplace? According to John Coleman, author of The Bad Habits You Learn in School, brand new graduates while seeming bright, hardworking and motivated desperately fear failure as they are perfectionists and focused on their personal success, are reluctant to work in a team environment and are rarely proactive.

More importantly, their world is viewed in terms of hierarchy — only the boss’ opinion matters and no one else’s.

The current educational system is unfortunately not set up to teach students leadership. So young people graduate with habits cultivated to hinder their strides as leaders in the workforce — habits that are difficult to break after having been learnt over a period of 13-20 years in educational institutions. Students get schooled in authority starting in preschool — the teacher is the authority-figure in the classroom; principals and deans preside over teachers and professors; and seniors rank higher than juniors. So kids learn early on that if they’re not the boss, they should simply do as they are told. Unfortunately in professional situations, this type of thinking does not work as even senior leadership is heavily reliant on the talents, experiences and intelligence of their team.

Secondly, schools also teach students to deal with information as being factual and unchanging. This kind of attitude has no place in a professional situation as problems are always in a state of flux and new ideas and analysis are constantly encouraged. Students are taught to fear ‘F” in their school reports, whereas for most leaders, failure is a precursor to success. Today’s young workers are expected to proactively find solutions to their tasks instead of being hand-fed. There are no text-books for a newbie employee to follow.

Finally, while many schools tell us to serve others, they are rarely structured to actively show us that leadership IS about serving others. Students, instead, are taught to serve themselves first — to improve their individual grades, to compete for individual positions, and to maximize their own employment, college, or grad school placements.

In a world that’s growing ever flatter and more complex, we need societies full of capable leaders. And the only way to do that is to structure our educational system — from elementary school right up to graduate school.

Source: John Coleman  | The Bad Habits You Learn in School | August 2, 2012 | Harvard Business Review

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