Leaders are in the education business, because leaders need to pull people – team members, bosses, customers, partners — along with them. Pushing people is partially effective, but requires positional power. Educating people is a key part of persuasion and influence.
The word ‘educate’ comes to English from Latin: ducere, meaning to draw or lead, with the prefix e to indicate “out of.” Education is not pouring into, but drawing out. It’s not cracking open the skull and stuffing in facts. Education requires that we use information, questions, dialogue, and experience plus feedback to shape the way a person thinks and behaves.
Therefore, education will never be an efficient process. There are efficient ways to give people information. There are efficient ways to begin dialogue. Yet education is about a whole person, requires their participation and cooperation, and touches the mystery of how the mind works.
Sometimes people have created a loose connection between education and indoctrination. Working from formal definitions:
Education: imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.
Indoctrination: teaching or inculcating a doctrine, principle, or ideology, especially one with a specific point of view.
Observation: If we approve of the curriculum and worldview, then we call it education. If we don’t, we condemn it as indoctrination.
Education is an open mindset; indoctrination is a fixed mindset. A test to consider: An educated person may develop a separate worldview from his teachers, disagree on many matters, and still be friendly and learn from one another. An intense focus on indoctrination yields a situation where departure from the doctrine is labeled heresy and destroys fellowship. Indoctrination as a strategy does not create mature individuals who continue learning and growing. People hell-bent (I use that word purposefully) on indoctrination do not tolerate a student exceeding the teacher. The only cooperative part of the indoctrination process is obedience and rote learning.
Education must be a mix of information and experiences. Sharing stories is crucial. Few will remember your seven brilliant bullet points, but they will remember the well-told story that touched their heart or made them smile. Better yet, share a story which made them see differently! Inspiring, transforming leaders weave stories and information together. They give people context where they can fit in the facts and information.
Your leadership will go to new levels when you see yourself as an educator.