Beth Bender Speaks with St. Louis Business Journal
In the January edition of TABLE OF EXPERTS: Educating St. Louis’ next leaders by the St. Louis Business Journal, ITEF’s Board Chair chimes in.
What qualities make a good leader and how does your school instill those qualities in students?
Dr. Elizabeth Bender: I think listening and flexibility are important. Really one of the biggest skills that we teach in a really non-direct kind of way is that flexibility is critical to leadership. It’s your boss giving you a project, and you bring it in and they want you to redo it or take a different angle with it. So trying to teach in that way is challenging, because so much of school is, “I turned in my paper. I’m done.” Life doesn’t work that way. So we are really trying to create learning environments that are similar to the challenges students will face.
Bob Cooke: I think there’s also an ethical grounding good leaders need to have to build in them strength of character so that they can use these great skills that we teach them, use them in the right way as opposed to all the other ways that they might go. So I think that’s a component. There are some very specific skills for working in groups, working with others, building consensus, learning to speak in public, learning to speak in a small group. I think learning to listen is so key, as you said, because I think there’s this traditional view of a leader in our country, at least relatively recently, where they’re super extroverted and they’re great in public and they’re the charismatic person in the room.
Dr. Elizabeth Bender: And I think there are many kinds of leaders. You have that very extroverted leader. You have, for instance, the team captain in a sport, but you also have those student athletes that follow along. And just by doing that, you also are a leader. By being that person on the bench that’s like, “No, we’re going to keep cheering them on,” that’s leadership, too. So I think so much of leadership we see is, “Who is the top person?” But leadership is much broader than that. So I think really trying to see the broad view of leadership and letting everybody understand their role is part of the work. Because so much of leadership is shared leadership.
So are you saying that really everybody is a leader in some venue?
Dr. Elizabeth Bender: In some way, shape or form, I think they are.
That’s what you’re teaching?
Dr. Elizabeth Bender: And I think that is important, because there are times I may take the lead on a project and there’s times you may take the lead. And understanding that leadership sometimes is stepping back and letting someone else have that glory or have that lead. And I think that is really important to success of larger groups of individuals.