Recognizing Potential in Unexpected Places

by Jermaine

TRUE LEADERSHIP is not just the ability to recognize the talent and skill of the polished individuals around you. True leadership involves being able to dig beneath the surface and scope out potential. Once assessed, true leaders have a neck for cultivating this potential until it is evident to everyone.

Case and point: The story of the troubled math student.

Once upon a time there was a young boy in fifth grade who constantly got in trouble in his math class. He sat and talked, disrupted the class, and even fell asleep. He seemed disconnected in group activities and apathetic towards homework. Most teachers would immediately write this student off as their problem child for the year and call it a day. However, this teacher was different. She wanted to understand what was going on. She knew the student was above average in other areas so she created a strategy to find out.

Surprisingly, she didn’t contact the parents. Instead she switched up a handful of activities in the class in hopes of getting more information. In place of calling out for volunteers in class she created a competition: Girls vs. Boys with prizes (candy) for the winners. She told the students she would teach all week as usual and on each Friday the competition would take place.

The first week the class was totally engaged. Everyone wanted to win (the prize was a personal pack of Now and Laters for each team-member). Interestingly enough, the boy who normally talked his way through class had his hand up the whole time trying to get a turn to go. Yet, the wise teacher waited, and waited, and waited. Finally the teacher paired the boy in the competition against the most studious girl student in class.

With a very close score between the teams, all of the classroom members sat back in anticipation.As the teacher placed the fraction question on the board most of the students began to shake there heads: this was a question they had never covered in class.

 “Go!” The teacher yelled.

Both students started slow… thinking of how to solve the question. Their classmates, full of excitement, exclaimed, “hurry, hurry, hurry!” The boy student finished the complex questions just seconds before the girl and spun around with both arms raised, “I won!”

The girl student stopped and asked the teacher in disbelief,

“Is it right?”

The wise teacher paused, looked down at her desk slowly, then quietly whispered, “Yes.”

The boy side of the room erupted! Students jumped out of their desk high-fiving each other and cheering. Within the week the teacher had the boy student out of her class and added to the middle-school academic games team. Turns out the student wasn’t bad, he was bored!

Who in your spear of influence is bored stiff because they are not being challenged? As a true leader it is time to find out! Even if you are not the best fit to mentor this person, like in the aforementioned anecdote, you should personally try to connect them with someone who can.

Recognizing potential is not always easy but the end results can be magical. Try your hand at this quality of leadership this week and report your results.

Good Leaders make followers. Great Leaders make Leaders.

(Author Unknown)