General Stanley McChrystal discusses the ideas of leadership from his military experience. I think he hits several key points that carry over into the experiences that I’m having as I try to teach martial arts classes. One key point is the idea of generational leadership. The recognition that experiences can be vastly different from one student to another due to age needs to be kept in mind.
Now, I run a school that is different from most in the industry. I don’t have kid’s classes. Those younglings who are of a minimum age are in the regular class and are expected to keep up. Their age is an advantage as they can absorb a lot of information and repeat most of it almost immediately. Their brains aren’t biased by their past experiences and failures. Most believe that they can do anything…until they find something they can’t. This is where the adult students in class become the examples and lead the way. This is kind of an obvious example of generational leadership but it is very basic.
This leadership can take the form of “follow the leader” and younglings can mimic well. The challenge comes from trying to explain and illustrate what they should be doing. When most of the younglings today don’t know who John Wayne was, it can make it tough for some adults to use words for instruction. Then there are the other experiences that may or may not be common. I had one 11 yer old ask me why I kept calling them younglings. I asked if he knew that it came from Star Wars. He said “I do but no one else in class understands that!” So, at the beginning of class, I asked who knew the term and, truly, everyone raised their hands. At this point, a 12 year old asked when they’d get to become Padawans.
Knowing that many of the students are on the geeky side is why I tend to use Star Wars and Star Trek references in class often. The other regular references are from anime, which fits the geeky ones and many of the younger. I’ve been fortunate to not need to get into video game references as the anime stretches my limits and the video game experience is non-existent.
I’ve included General McChrystal’s TED Talk here for your enjoyment. he has some other insights that may show up in future posts.