If you are interested in ADHD, the The Brain Warriors Podcast by Dr Daniel and Tana Amen is a great resource. This month I recommend the following episode, The 7 Types of ADD and How to Treat.
If you're looking for some coaching phrases to use when your child is upset then the following blog post is a must read, 10 Emotion-Coaching Phrases to Use When Your Child is Upset.
One of the things I see a lot of business owners struggle with is hiring the right people. It can be difficult to really learn about a person during an interview but the questions in the following article may be a game changer; 5 interview questions that will help you hire better people.
The other day I was chatting to the mum of a child with ADHD and she was telling me that her child’s teacher was ringing her every day telling her all the things her child wasn’t doing right at school. You can imagine how much the mum looked forward to that daily call! One day the teacher told her the “he refused to stop what he was doing and go onto the next task”. Now anyone with any knowledge of ADHD will know that some children with ADHD struggle to move between tasks because their brains just don’t allow it. Dr Daniel Amen calls this “over-focused ADD” and it is caused by low levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain.
My personal crusade is to change the language people use around children, and adults, about their learning difficulties by educating them about what it actually is and why certain children behave in a certain way. The child who “refuses to change tasks” is actually unable to easily move from task to task like his neurotypical counterparts. Imagine hearing only negative words in relation to yourself and how you learn – eventually you are going to believe you are stupid or naughty! It makes me so mad!!! These children need our empathy, they need our understanding and as educators we have a responsibility to build children up not tear them down.
A few years ago I was managing an outside school hours’ service, which was going through a difficult time and a lot of staff unrest. There were also a lot of behavioural challenges between the children and the educators. The first thing I noticed was that they were not working as a team and that it was an “every man for himself” kind of mentality. With management’s approval, I instigated a 15 minute earlier start time for the afternoons and made everyone come together in a team huddle.
Initially, I found that the 15 minutes was mainly me talking and trying to motivate the team. Over time it evolved into a time the team could reflect on the day before, by sharing any challenges they had encountered and getting feedback from their peers about different ways of coping with them. This started to build trust within the team and they slowly started working together more effectively.
Because I like numbers and statistics I used to keep detailed records of incidents, like when and where they occurred as well as the child and educator involved. I used this information for rostering and training purposes. If I had repeated incidents with the same child and educator I would spend time observing their interactions.
What I noticed with most of the educators was that within their own interactions with the children, they were using negative language and telling children what they didn’t want to see instead of the behaviours they did want to see. The other observation was that during the team huddle, if one educator shared an incident involving a specific child with the group, the educator who had that child in their group that day, immediately reacted negatively and set themselves and the child up for failure.
One particular day, I made each educator say three positive things about a child before they could talk about a challenge or issue they were having. It took some time for the educators to think up three great things but eventually, as it became more of a habit, they automatically started thinking about the children in a positive way. This changed their entire interaction and relationship with the children.
I am fully aware that educators today have a massive, often under-appreciated job, with big classes and an ever increasing curriculum which includes standardised testing. Their job is tough but we need to find a way to work and talk together because the problem of ADHD, and other learning difficulties, in the classroom is not going away, in fact it is growing
Nelson Mandela has been a tribal chief’s son, a civil rights leader, a reluctant guerrilla leader and eventually South Africa’s first democratic president. Through these many stages of his life he never once lost his vision for a country free of oppression for all its people. He is revered for being able to end apartheid in South Africa with minimal bloodshed and unite a once much divided country. He is acknowledged as one of the greatest leaders of the 21st century.
Mandela was a true transformational leader in that he had the vision and strategy to back up his charisma. Charismatic leaders may be transformational leaders as they use their charisma to build allegiance in their followers. Mandela displayed great charisma in his speeches, especially in his three-hour address during the Rivonia Trial. Transformational leaders can be defined as “agents of change” who “create, communicate and model a shared vision … and inspire followers to strive for that vision.”
From his early life as a member of royalty within the Xhosa tribe to becoming president and his subsequent philanthropic life, Mandela has always shown leadership competencies. He was self-aware enough to understand the importance of education and lifelong learning in understanding and helping to change people’s circumstances.
During his imprisonment he could no longer take a lead role in the African National Congress (ANC) however he used shared leadership to ensure the ANC continued its course to a free and fair South Africa. During this time, he was challenged by members of the ANC who did not share his wish for a peaceful end to apartheid. The Guardian stated that during this time his leadership was “moral, rather than practical”.
Mandela’s biggest challenge upon release from prison was he had to manage the distress of white South Africans who feared change as well as black South Africans who wanted revenge. Heifetz stated that “a leader must have presence and poise; regulating distress is perhaps a leader’s most difficult job”.
Nelson Mandela taught us that a clear vision, integrity and tenacity are integral to be a good leader. In 1998, Mandela gave a speech at Harvard University where he said, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” This was how he lived his life every day, in every way. Mandela was not afraid to take the frontline in dangerous times, but he was also prepared to lead from behind and let others take the glory for victories. Mandela’s emotional intelligence was high and his ability to forgive was a true example of great leadership. Mandela adjusted his strategy as he needed but he never wavered from his deeply held values.
If we look at world leaders over the last century there have been many which are worthy of being called ‘great leaders’ however Nelson Mandela would have to be at the top of the list. Mahatma Ghandi’s career shared many parallels with Mandela’s, most importantly their approach to peaceful change. Remembering that leadership can be used for good and evil, we can’t discount the leadership of Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot. However, Mandela showed us that leadership is about humanity and he put people and their needs above all else with his drive to ensure that all humans are treated equally.
If we look at the four elements of transformational leadership and relate it to Mandela’s life, we can see he was a transformational leader from the very beginning. His strategic vision, the first element of transformational leadership, of a democratic South Africa was unwavering, even if it took him down the path of violence and perhaps his own death. In his Rivonia Trial address conclusion Mandela stated “It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.
To achieve the second element of transformational leadership, Mandela had to communicate his vision. While it was easier for him to communicate with his own demographic, a large portion of white South Africans saw him as an agitator and someone who was going to take away their security. Mandela’s challenge was conveying his message that “black supremacy was as depraved as white supremacy”. In his inaugural presidential speech, he used crucial plural nouns to align the nation to a common vision. Ultimately, he had to “walk the talk” in every decision, speech and interview he did.
Mandela made it acceptable to put the past behind and focus on the future. This was important as revenge and violence could easily have taken over; however, by “reaching out a reconciliatory hand to his oppressors” Mandela modelled his vision for a democratic society through his promotion of reconciliation and forgiveness, showing the third element of transformational leadership.
The fourth element of transformational leadership is building a commitment towards the vision. Even during his 27 years of imprisonment, Mandela could continue his work, albeit through others, to end apartheid. After his release from prison he could espouse reconciliation and used, sometimes unusual, methods to ensure a commitment from all stakeholders. This was most apparent in his use of sport as a conduit to bring all South Africans together, regardless of race, to support their country on the world stage. There are few South Africans who don’t still beam with pride when they recall the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final and how they celebrated in the streets as a nation of people, all one and all equal.
While certain skills and attitudes can be influenced through mentoring and training, the intrinsic values which define a truly transformational leader need to be in their DNA from the start. The most important characteristic of transformational leaders is the ability to control their fear when it comes to making their vision a reality. In the words of the great Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
In conclusion, when we think about the example of Nelson Mandela we have been given valuable insights into both the challenges and the rewards of being a transformational leader. It would be interesting to see research into what a transformational leader’s legacy is after their departure from an organisation, or as in Mandela’s case, when he left office. Years after South Africa’s first democratic election, we see a country in economic and social turmoil and the lessons Mandela tried to embed into the country’s society are now considered something to aspire to. However today, without strong leadership or role modelling Mandela’s vision will continue to be an aspiration and not a reality.