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Lakeside Middle School 13510 1st Avenue NE Seattle, WA 98125-3099
Lakeside Upper School 14050 1st Avenue NE Seattle, WA 98125-3099
Learning to lead

The inaugural Lakeside Leadership Institute began its first of four sessions March 10, with the goal of teaching practical leadership skills that students can apply in meaningful way to all aspects of Lakeside life they are involved with, from clubs to teams to school programs.

Five students from each of grades 8 through 11—20 students in all—were selected to participate.

“The rationale for the institute is that, while Lakeside does a good job of giving opportunities for leadership, we wanted to do more in the way of training students in how to lead,” explains Bryan Smith, Upper School assistant director.

“We want to create a common language of what leadership means,” says Smith, who led efforts to create the new program—a partnership with National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). “We want students to learn how to lead in a way that enhances the values we hold as a community, and to have the skills and practical knowledge to understand how to move a group towards that goal.”

NOLS, a respected nonprofit outdoor education school, was chosen because Lakeside liked its proven professional training program, which provides the same kind of leadership training as it teaches in its back-country wilderness expeditions. Smith says its “4/7/1 leadership model” teaches four leadership roles, seven leadership skills, and “one distinctive leadership style”—which is the individual’s own style. Some examples of the skills students will learn are self-awareness, judgment and decision making, tolerance for adversity and uncertainty, and competence.

In each of the four sessions—follow-ups will take place in April, August, and November—a different one or two skills are emphasized. At the March opening session, Jim Donald, former CEO of Starbucks recently named as CEO of Extended Stay America, gave the keynote address.

As their capstone project, the students in November go for an overnight expedition near Conway, Wash., to the NOLS Pacific Northwest branch, in which they will combine all their learned skills, roles, and styles to complete a leadership navigational challenge, Smith says.

This first institute is a pilot, Smith says. The school’s leadership chose the students, based on students’ demonstrated leadership potential and experience—they are leaders of clubs, involved in teams, student government, judicial committee, or service work—as well as whether their schedules could accommodate the program. In the future, there may be an application process, but that hasn’t yet been determined.

The hope, says Smith, is that, “If this program is successful, we could have up to 20-40 students in each grade by the time they’re seniors, who will have clear training on what it is like to lead. Combined with what we do with ethics and character education in our class meetings, and in programs such as Global Service Learning, the Outdoor Program, and Service Learning, where they are also given the opportunity to practice ethics and character education, that training will combine in a powerful way, where we graduate students who are intentional about their leadership.”

According to students, the institute is off to a great start. Said sophomore Kevin M.: “After participating in the inaugural session, I genuinely believe that this program is the next step in fulfilling Lakeside School's mission of contributing leadership to a global world. The chance to participate in an innovative program like Lakeside Leadership Institute is a wonderful example of what sets Lakeside apart from other schools.”

And sophomore Aidan F. said: “Lakeside has always stressed the importance of leadership, and has given me ample opportunities to become a leader, but I have never really known just how to do this to the best of my abilities. At this institute, however, I was fortunate enough to be supplied by a NOLS instructor (a man who has taught leadership to some amazingly influential sets of people) with the essential ideas and tools to practice leadership in every aspect of my adolescent and adult life.”

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