Leadership - 'Make your grades the least impressive thing about you'

14th February 2014 at 00:00
What counts is your impact on others, TEDx star tells students

Young people should stop obsessing about their CVs and try to make their exam grades "the least impressive things about them", a world-renowned speaker on leadership has said.

Students should remember that they are "way smarter" than they think and "than any test could show them to be", according to Drew Dudley. The Canadian, who has promoted his ideas in a TEDx talk, warned that the idea of qualifications being the purpose of education made many young people feel "trapped".

"School is the last place in your life where the ability to do a test is valued more than to actually do something," he said. "Your marks are not a measure of your value as a human being."

Leadership was not demonstrated through academic success but by striving to make an impact on your own life or that of others, he told an audience of students, teachers and parents at Bearsden Academy in East Dunbartonshire.

This did not mean that young people should abandon the goal of achieving the best possible results at school. But they should then try "twice as hard to make (their marks) the least impressive thing about them", he said. "You should work hard to achieve what you want to achieve, but you should not forget that the people around you are what matters."

Students at Bearsden Academy were inspired by Mr Dudley's TEDx talk on everyday leadership (bit.lyDudleyTalk) when researching the topic. And after they made contact he agreed to give a talk at the school. A former leadership development coordinator at the University of Toronto, Mr Dudley founded Nuance Leadership Development Services in 2010. His TEDx talk has been viewed by more than 1 million people.

During his own time at school and college, his whole life had been "about looking good on paper", Mr Dudley said. "My resume was what my entire education was about."

His views changed when a university friend died from cancer, showing him that life was about so much more than that double- sided piece of paper. "I decided then that I wanted to live my life to matter," he explained.

Mr Dudley urged the students in the audience to celebrate everyday achievements that made them leaders, and strive to create moments where they made someone else's life better. Aspiring leaders should "plan to matter", he stressed. "If you plan to matter every day, it will change the rest of your life."

Paul Cassidy, depute headteacher at Bearsden Academy, said Mr Dudley's views fitted well into the context of Curriculum for Excellence, which encouraged a holistic approach to student development. "It is not just about grades," he said. "They are very important, but it is about the whole person and their development. As a high-attaining school, grades are something we are interested in, but we also want to address the opportunities for leadership."

Bearsden Academy promotes leadership among its students not only through classroom practice but also through a learner voice committee, student councils and a student leadership committee, which promotes children's rights across the school. This led to the academy receiving a Unicef Rights Respecting Schools Award in June last year.

Curriculum for Excellence aims to foster leadership. According to the government: "(Young people) will need to understand that everyone can develop leadership skills, which can be used across learning, life and work settings."

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