Learning 4 Jul 2018

What makes an effective leader?

By Adya Gupta (grade 5-3, TK) and Mrs Judy Kay (grade 5 teacher, TK)
Photograph by CIS Communications

What does it mean to be an effective leader? How do leaders influence our communities? How can we become leaders and impact the lives of others? These were the themes of our grade 5’s unit of inquiry on leadership.

This unit began with us reading about famous world leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi and current youth leaders like Malala Yousafzai and Ryan Hreljac. Students then thought about, and discussed  the attributes of an effective leader. Together, we compiled a list of the top 10 characteristics that effective leaders demonstrate. Students decided that perseverance, integrity, empathy, and confidence were among the common traits shared by most great leaders.

Additionally, grade 5 students explored leaders of a slightly different nature. We reflected on how leadership comes in many distinct forms. Not all leaders will necessarily change the world, but they can influence the lives of others through their actions and opinions. We realised this as we welcomed Tayo Hendrix (yes, the daughter of the late Jimi Hendrix) to share her experience with her foundation that helps disadvantaged youth in London. Tayo stressed the impact we all have on people through our actions and how each step we take makes a crucial difference in someone else’s life. Even a small step such as being polite and considerate to one another every day makes a big difference in spreading kindness.

Another exploration into leadership was our virtual meeting with the Soles4Souls CEO, Buddy Teaster. Soles4Souls collects new and slightly used shoes and redistributes them to people in disaster zones or poverty stricken areas. Our Tanjong Katong community  recently supported Soles4Soles by running a shoe drive with our barely used shoes going to the Soles4Souls charity. Like Tayo, Buddy promoted the idea that we can all be leaders through our actions. Even the simplest acts of kindness can bring the deepest sense of happiness to others.

Buoyed by Tayo and Buddy’s meaningful words, we welcomed our final inspirational guest speaker for the unit—Singaporean Iron Chef Herman Tan. Herman shared his struggles with dyslexia and drugs, how he had taken leadership of his own life and turned it around to become an accomplished chef, triathlete and author. Herman is an important, necessary inspiration for everyone as he stresses the importance of hard work and commitment in order to achieve your goals.

Gathering valuable lessons from these leaders, we ventured into our second line of inquiry. We explored the process of selecting political leaders. Each student gave a brief presentation of the political system in their home country. We identified similarities in the various election processes and governmental structures from a wide variety of countries.

One of the main highlights of this inquiry was our tour of the Singapore Parliament. Students from grade 5 learned firsthand about the politics of the Singapore governmental structure and had the privilege of sitting in the “Strangers Gallery”. Following this, we headed to the National Gallery of Singapore to examine constitutional documents of Singapore.

Our final, and most personal reflection for the unit was to sum up our own journey as a leader. We affirmed our current leadership qualities, refined our goals for secondary school and beyond, and created more profound aspirations for the type of leader we aspire to be as adults.