A Leadership Challenge for The Leadership Challenge

12/12/2014 12:00 AM ,

Martin Tan

It’s not very often in life you get to face your leadership challenge teaching The Leadership Challenge. My recent training session in Beijing, China, was exactly just that. A leadership challenge. My biggest one yet.

What was planned as a training session for the inaugural batch of Student Leadership Challenge Facilitators in English turned out to be a four-day session taught in Mandarin. From an initial class size of 13 educators, we ended up with a class size of 25, the majority of whom were non-English speakers.

What made it even more interesting was the change was made the night before over a customary welcome dinner by the host. Hence what was already a scary thought of teaching in China, soon became a challenge unlike many I’ve encountered.

To put things in perspective, I am a Singaporean. English is my first language. It is the language I speak at home, in school, in business, and it is the language of our parliament and everything else Singaporean. At the same time, I am a Chinese by race. Which means that I should know Mandarin. I’ve learned it in school but don’t usually use it. Let alone teach.

But there we were, on what was a gorgeous blue-sky day in August (I mention this because it is a rarity to get blue-sky days in Beijing), with all 25 participants assembled in the training room of host partner China Youth and Children Research Centre (CYCRC).

Representatives from Wiley, Publishing House of Electronics Industry (PHEI), and CYCRC made their formal introductions and spoke words of welcome and thanks. For me, it seemed all too short a time as after the formalities, it was down to me.

To be perfectly honest, it was one of the scariest things I’ve done (apart from finding myself reluctantly on a roller-coaster with a girl I was trying to impress), but also one of the most fulfilling things I’ve managed to do.

The first two days was the classic Leadership Challenge Workshop where we brought the participants through The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership and shared tales of conquest and stories from Chinese history. Quotes we typically used from the West soon gave way to sayings of Confucius and Chinese idioms whose brevity and wisdom I’ve learned to appreciate.

The next two days, we started on our very first Student Leadership Challenge Certified Facilitators Workshop in China. It was truly a privilege to be making history with a bunch of educators and facilitators who are not only sincere in heart, but also wonderful in spirit. We revisited the Leadership Challenge content and guided them through the whole certification process where they presented, with gusto and fervor, their lesson plans for each practice.

In all, six soon-to-be certified Student Leadership Challenge facilitators presented and we were not only impressed by their grasp of the content, but the heart they put into their preparation and the delivery of the program.

It was after all about The Leadership Challenge. I’ve now checked one more box on my list of challenges. More importantly, we now potentially have a couple of certified Student Leadership Challenge facilitators who will take this wonderful program back to their schools and education system to raise a new generation of young leaders who will in time seek to master the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspiration.

That is why we are doing what we are doing, aren’t we? We face our own leadership challenge so that the next generation can face theirs and together, we can make, however big or small, a difference in the societies we are in.


Martin Tan is the executive director of the Institute for Societal Leadership.

Category: Success Stories

What they are saying...

"Why wait to learn leadership in the workplace? Students can learn how to lead by using Kouzes and Posner's five proven leadership practices. [This] is the perfect guide for...[those] seeking to develop themselves for leadership."
– Howard T. Prince II
University of Texas, Austin

What they are saying...

"I've been teaching leadership classes for twenty years, and The Five Practices are, hands down, the best tool for helping students see both their inherent strengths as leaders as well as to further develop their skills."
– Britt Andreatta
University of California, Santa Barbara

What they are saying...

"[The Student Leadership Challenge] (book) is a gift to university educators who teach leadership courses or develop trainings. workshops, and retreats."
– Laura Osteen
Florida State University

What they are saying...

Corey Hill "The greatest part about being in the virtual community was being able to hear the instructors, talk about the material we were discussing, as well as having our own discussion as a class with our other classmates over chat. You got a lot of interaction with the material, a lot of takes and nuances on what other people were taking away from the material that I don’t think you would get in a traditional classroom setting."
– Corey Hill
Oklahoma State University

What they are saying...

"The Student Leadership Practices Inventory is the best tool I have used to help students assess their leadership effectiveness because it translates the concept of leadership into actions and relationships. By defining and measuring specific leadership behaviors, the Student LPI allows students to see how they are doing as leaders and to determine how they can improve."
– Cathy Early
National Interfraternity Conference

What they are saying...

"The student examples inspire the reader and show us that running into bumps along the way is not only normal, but that you can approach the challenges with confidence and practical solutions."
– Amanda Crowell Itliong
Stanford University

What they are saying...

"The authors set out to teach college student leaders to understand what it takes to be an effective leader, to inspire them to find their own unique skills and abilities, and to explore and discover where their leadership will make the most difference in the lives of others and in the success of their organization.  I believe they have succeeded."
– William L. Kibler
Mississippi State University
NASPA Journal, 2009, Vol. 46, no. 4

What they are saying...

"The experience of the Certified Leadership Training left me feeling more confident and equipped to provide better leadership training to my student leaders."
– Erica Lara
Nyack College, NY

What they are saying...

"The 5 practices are a must!  Demonstrating and understanding the [concept that] 'leadership is an art' that must be taught to our students was incorporated throughout the training."
– Jerry Alva
Texas A&M International University

What they are saying...

"This is a great opportunity for any person looking to develop a program that involves The Student Leadership Challenge."
– Miguel Trevino
Texas A&M International University

What they are saying...

"I am more equipped to develop a leadership program that will have a positive impact on the students at my institution."
– Andrew Moyer
Delaware Valley College, PA

What they are saying...

"Employers are looking for students who have content knowledge and practical experience working in teams and leading others. The Student Leadership Challenge is an excellent example of the behaviors needed to accomplish extraordinary tasks that can get you noticed by a potential employer."
– Kevin Bailey, vice president for student affairs
University of West Florida

What they are saying...

"Beth and Gary are so personable that I was totally comfortable asking anything. For a program with such vigor, these two facilitators do an amazing job of creating a safe, fun, and functional learning environment."
– Certified Facilitator Training participant

What they are saying...

"The Student Leadership Challenge is a gift to university educators who teach leadership courses or develop trainings, workshops, and retreats."
– Laura Osteen
Florida State University

What they are saying...

"Developing transformative learning environments for leadership education begins when we embrace the use of emerging technologies and social media to enhance student learning."
– Todd Foley, assistant director for the Student Involvement Center
Saint Louis University

What they are saying...

"Leadership is a journey of personal and organizational discovery… understanding that the best way to learn is to teach, we decided to take on the challenge of having our students teach others.
"
– Vince Bellafiore
Marmion Academy

What they are saying...

"We know that The Student Leadership Challenge is making a difference. Through continuous coaching and intervention, with the use of the Student LPI, we are helping to keep our young people engaged in the pursuit of exemplary leadership."
– Melvin Chia
Lifeskills Enrichment, Singapore

What they are saying...

"The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership are everywhere. And as important as it is to exhibit those qualities yourself as a leader, it is just as critical to see them in others, and to be driven and inspired by other people’s leadership.
"
– Nina Vasan and Jennifer Przybylo
authors of Do Good Well

What they are saying...

"Consider the college campus as a leadership laboratory—a place where students have multiple opportunities to practice their leadership skills and explore and develop their leadership identity.
"
– Marcy Levy Shankman
Cleveland Leadership Center

What they are saying...

"I am so passionate about leadership and making a difference and I truly, honestly, wholeheartedly believe in The Student Leadership Challenge model. It is complete, yet simple enough, for all to understand. SO very excited to share this model with others, both on-campus and in the community.
"
– Suzanne Von Behren, RN, BSN, University Wellness Services
Northwest Missouri State

What they are saying...

"I feel that a program like this could really work in helping to eventually change our culture within our schools, homes, and businesses. Although I am not a supervisor, I plan to implement the model fully in our office and look forward to sharing it with coworkers. I love The Student Leadership Challenge model and am so excited!
"
– Suzanne Von Behren, RN, BSN, University Wellness Services
Northwest Missouri State

What they are saying...

"The Student Leadership Challenge is one of the most robust teaching and learning opportunities we have as educators. The Five Practices are identifiable and learnable skills allowing an individual to improve by receiving feedback and observation and by setting goals.
"
– Jason R. Pierce, director of education
Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity

What they are saying...

"And so again [leadership development] becomes foundational, it becomes a foundational understanding of living your values, of challenging the process to make things better, enabling others to act. It’s not just delegating, it’s about giving people the passion and the power to it themselves.
"
– Matt Baker, Vice President of Student Affairs
Northwest Missouri State University

What they are saying...

"Within the academy, we are constantly seeking additional tools to assist us in teaching the valuable lesson of leadership development for students. The Student Leadership Challenge is an excellent resource to assist in the important goal of helping students to become better leaders and, ultimately, stellar citizens in the communities of the world.
"
– Victor K Wilson, vice president for student affairs
The University of Geogia

What they are saying...

"Student leadership challenges are quite similar to adult challenges, and yet they differ as wel­­l– in scale and in the power of peer perspective. Kouzes and Posner have constructed a wide and sturdy bridge across these worlds. My college students will find relevant lessons and great inspiration in the diverse and compelling stories that are retold. We’d have a lot less adult leadership problems if more teachers and students used this great book.
"
– Dan Mulhern, Distinguished Practitioner of Law and Business
University of California, Berkeley, and author Everyday Leadership: Getting Results in Business, Politics and Life

What they are saying...

"Kouzes and Posner provide a comprehensive, research-based, and values-driven resource that is packed with real-life examples. This book makes leadership highly accessible to college students and is sure to empower the next generation to tap into their potential as leaders and social change agents.
"
– Jennifer R. Keup, director
National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition

What they are saying...

"The Five Practices has provided a framework for students to reflect on their leadership experience and restructure their philosophy and theories relating to leadership as they challenge themselves through these five practices.
"
– Amy Kuo, Somchanhmavong, associate director
Service-Learning, Public Service Center, Cornell University

What they are saying...

"As a Student Leadership Challenge Certified Facilitator I am excited about using these books to further aid me in developing curriculum and giving our students a tool to acknowledge and reflect on the concepts as they pertain to their own capacity to lead effectively."
– Deborah Mann, Student Leadership Challenge Certified Facilitator
BOLD Leadership Program, Cornell University

What they are saying...

"In our public service leadership programs and courses we will be able to easily use the many relevant and engaging activities and reflection exercises provided in this workbook. It will enable our students to better engage with and benefit from The Student Leadership Challenge, and will also help foster their personal leadership development journeys."
– Jon McConnell, associate director,
Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford University

What they are saying...

"Every young person dreams of doing something extraordinary. The Student Leadership Challenge provides everything this generation needs to turn a dream into reality."
– Brian C. Warren Jr., executive director
Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity

What they are saying...

"A book of genuinely effective activities for enagaging students at all levels, turning the novice facilitator into a pro. It includes easy-to-use concepts that readily apply to life as a leader, and is a real difference maker that fosters success!"
– Randy D. Grimes, human resources director
Duke University

What they are saying...

"A fantastic resource for leadership educators looking to further develop students’ understanding of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership in a tangible, hands-on way! It offers engaging activities that are sure to make an impact on your student leaders. This activity book is a great supplement to The Student Leadership Challenge, bringing the original concepts off the page and into the real world.
"
– Kimberly Piatt, coordinator of leadership development
The College at Brockport.

What they are saying...

"An excellent one-stop resource for activities to engage student of different learning styles. Students will find the experiential nature of the activities easy to comprehend and most importantly be able to see the relevance and application of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership."
– Melvin Chia, principal consultant
Lifeskills Enrichment

What they are saying...

"From what, to so what, and now what, this guide helps take educators on a journey of not only understanding The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership but also specifically on how to apply, practice, and teach the nuances of these exemplary leadership ways of being."
– Laura Osteen, professor of higher education, Florida State University
and director, Florida State’s Center for Leadership and Civic Education

What they are saying...

"The Facilitation and Activity Guide would have helped me not only to develop a better leadership program but to be a better leader myself. For those administering The Five Practices, this guide ‘Models the way’ and will be one of your best coaches."
– Sam Eriksmoen, former director, Emerging Leaders Program
University of North Dakota

What they are saying...

"Educators working at all levels will benefit from [The Facilitation and Activity Guide]. It is practical, applicable to diverse sectors, and works."
– Katie Burke, director, L.E.A.D. (Leadership Education & Development)
Florida Atlantic University