Inspiring People for Maximum Productivity
"...And they said, let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work." Nehemiah 2:18
It is amazing to learn and witness an ordinary teacher inspire average students for outstanding performance. There are numerous outstanding coaches who were never star players in their day. And there are the average employees who became leaders and turned organizations around-on the positive side.
What one sees among these leaders, regardless of their background, is individuals with a vision, burning desire to turn that vision into reality, ability to communicate that vision to others in a way that inspires positive attitude, determination and action from the listeners.
As I reflected on what makes these leaders exceptional, I recalled Father Hiran my high school principal. I never had the opportunity to learn how he performed as a student or player in his youth. What I know is that he admitted students who were generally average performers and turned many to outstanding academicians and sportsmen.
Learn challenges. A day high school meant students from distant areas would have rent apartments and will spend time cooking instead of studying. Father Hiran worked with local businessmen who build apartments next to the school. He kept classrooms open for private studies at night, weekends and holidays.
Empathy. The day school tuition, about $30/semester in the 70s, was a fathomable challenge for many families. Without help many students could never complete their studies. The principal listened, understood the circumstances and made arrangements for payments to be made in installments. He personally paid four years tuition for one of my friends.
Use of the power of inspirational moments. Once in a while, he would wander from class to class at night encouraging a student here and there. Leadership consultants have for years admonished leaders to inspire positive actions by catching their employees when doing something good.
Awareness. Awareness of the Kamba people culture was instrumental in the success of this leader. As instructor of religious knowledge, he brought lessons in cultural context that students were familiar with. Imagine discussing Biblical characters from the perspective of Kamba legendary leaders, warriors and seers. A leaders vision is only sensible if others can understand from their perspective.
Inspire beyond job description. We were primarily students. But Father Hiran created opportunities for some of us to be involved with teaching classes in adult literacy. He established clubs such as Wildlife, Drama and Debate clubs that help student s develop skills for lifetime. Great abilities in individuals are discovered when there is freedom and opportunities to do more than what is stipulated in job description.
Personal growth. Early in the morning or late in the evening you would see this priest reading the Bible or walking in the school compound alone. Great leaders are constantly active in their own spiritual, mental and physical growth.
Commitment to the growth of others. Some of the students were admitted as freshmen largely because of the athletic abilities. The principal spent time with each long distance runner, basketball player or hockey player discovering their strengths and areas that needed improvement. He provided them with special breakfasts and dinners to encourage them to develop their skills. He searched and connected talented long distance runners with potential American colleges or national employers where they could further their abilities.
Feedback. There were exams at the end of each semester that students finished in the last day of school. The principal made it his responsibility to drive and take report cards to each student during the holidays which was a huge undertaking that took several weeks. The visits were brief and in the presence of a parent or guardian. He reviewed strengths and what a student needed to improve in character and academic performance.
In conclusion, Father Hiran's vision for transforming the lives of students at his high school was evident in everything he said and did. He believed in students and provided them the environment to develop the "wings" the needed to soar in life beyond the confinement of four years of schooling within a school's boundaries.