The Social Change Model of Leadership at Olashore International School
“Leadership is about making a better world and a better society for ourselves and others.”
This quote underpins the social change model of leadership and was a firmly held belief of the founder of Olashore International School, Oba Oladele Olashore (CON). Great leaders have an impact on their society that resonates beyond their own society and lifetime. In the 20th century we think of Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King. These were people who changed the way people thought, they made a positive and long lasting change.
The social change model of leadership, which began development in 1994 with research at the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, provides a framework for students to develop leadership competencies that will allow them to impact positively on society. In this article we will focus on the two primary goals of SCM and how they are linked to Olashore International School’s mission statement. The two goals are “to enhance student learning and development” and “to facilitate positive change at the institution or in the community” (Komives et al. 2009).
In 2013, as it celebrated its twentieth anniversary, Olashore International School was reviewing the role of education in the twenty first century. The school was producing excellent academic results but universities and employers were now expecting a much wider set of competencies. The school needed a clear pathway for students to develop these competencies while staying true to its founding values. An Olashore education had always been about leadership; Olashore alumni were already taking leading roles in society; Gbemileke Oscar Oyinsan was Head of Programmes at City FM, a leading radio station in Lagos, Obinna Okwodu, class of 2007 and MIT graduate, had initated the Exposure Robotics Academy summer programme for secondary school students. How could the school ensure that it continued to prepare all students to be leaders in the dynamic global society?
As part of the review a mission statement was developed. Within this mission statement there was an emphasis on the need to “develop leaders for the 21st century” but also to “nurture each child to their full potential”. The social change model provided the arc linking these pillars. In order to ensure that each child reaches their full potential it is vital that the child truly understands their potential. In the academic arena this potential can be assessed using formal testing. Schools across Nigeria are now using the cognitive ability tests as part of their admission procedures. Regular testing and sharing of these results with teachers, parents and students allows everyone to work together to ensure that each child is academically challenged to reach their full potential. What systems are available to achieve this in non-academic areas? How can we be sure that each child achieves their full leadership potential?
“I want, by understanding myself, to understand others. I want to be all that I am capable of becoming” Katherine Mansfield
There are three key components of the SCM:
Students begin their journey through the SCM by looking at the individual values. Self-awareness is key before embarking on any leadership journey. In the leadership programme at Olashore, students in junior classes begin by exploring the first three of the 7Cs. These are consciousness of self, congruence and commitment. During this process students reflect on their beliefs, their values and their attitudes. Olashore International School is an international school firmly grounded in Nigerian values. Students are drawn from across Nigeria and the world and each child comes with their own unique experiences and talents. Exploring these values and talents, individually and alongside their peers, deepens their self-awareness. This process allows them to understand how they can work with others, in pairs, in groups or as a class. They learn to understand their own strengths and how they can best contribute to a group. They also have the opportunity to explore talents that may be undiscovered. Through the leadership programme students who were initially shy and reticent about contributing in group or class discussions have found they can become not only group leaders within their class but facilitators of lessons for junior students in the leadership programme or teachers of children from local government primary schools.
“Leadership involves collaborative relationships that lead to collective action grounded in the shared values of people who work together to effect positive change” (HERI)
As they progress on their leadership journey at Olashore, students explore group processes and shared values. This is the area where they begin to discover their leadership talents. Students now study the next three of the 7Cs; these are collaboration, common purpose and controversy with civility. In research by the World Economic Forum, collaborating with others and people management consistently place amongst the top five skills that employers look for. The group component of the SCM is where students develop these skills. It is important that students learn that groups develop over time and go through predictable stages. Work by Tuckman and Jensen identifies the stages of forming, storming, norming and performing followed by adjourning. Rather than teaching this in a theoretical way, students explore the three Cs and group dynamics through working in groups. Initially this takes place within the leadership sessions but the emphasis is to develop groups with specific tasks to achieve. At this stage, students focus on projects that can be completed within the school but these have an emphasis on creating positive change for the school community or wider society. Since the inception of the programme groups have worked on projects to improve the environment for junior students within Olashore; they have also undertaken projects to support students at local schools. This has included developing scholarship preparation classes for children from government primary schools and academic enhancement classes for scholarship students at a local secondary school. Through these projects they explore their values and discover new talents. Collaboration is key as different roles are allocated. Students who perhaps considered themselves as less gifted in mathematics find that they are in fact the best students to explain maths to the younger children. Students who are the youngest of their siblings find they have a gift for making younger children feel comfortable in a new environment. Controversy also arises as students reflect on their group values and how it fits with their individual values. For example, when deciding on the project goal, who should be the beneficiaries? Should we work on an improved environment for all or just our peers? Which students should we provide classes for. Collaborating to develop a common purpose as a group, accepting there will be controversy which can resolved through open and honest dialogue are the key learning areas at this stage.
The final C, citizenship and the overall objective of the SCM is to develop leadership that has a positive impact on the community or society. Citizenship runs throughout the model. Initially students considering their individual understanding of citizenship within their personal value system. Membership of a group brings its own responsibilities and responsibility for the wider acts of that group. In senior classes students explore the importance of people working together to address the shared needs in society.
It is difficult to make positive change in a group if you do not fully identify with the group. The great leaders mentioned earlier, Mandela, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, worked with their community to bring about change. The SCM promotes this philosophy. This doesn’t mean that you can’t impact positively on the life of other communities, but the key is to work as with the community nor for the community. Senior students in the Olashore Leadership Programme take this on board as they look beyond the school gates to the community around the school to have a positive impact. In year 10 students have always undertaken had a one-week community service programme. The SCM is now reflected in this programme as student representatives meet with community members to identify community needs. The students then work as a group to develop strategies where they can work with the community to have an impact. All senior students also develop other projects across the year. Recently students began to visit with children at a local home for the under-privileged. This relationship allowed them to get to know the children and identify their needs. They then worked together to develop projects to tackle these needs.
The SCM emphasises that leadership is a process, not a position and that all students have the capacity to lead. In any programme to develop student leadership based on this model it is important that all students are given the opportunity and support to work through the three stages of individual values, group values and community/societal impact. This cannot be achieved by sitting in a classroom or reading books alone. Leadership development is a practical activity and students develop those skills by putting them into practice at every stage. Olashore International School is committed to developing leaders through the social change model who will have a positive impact on society in Nigeria and globally in the 21st century.
Higher Education Research Institute (1996) A Social Change Model of Leadership Development (version III). Los Angeles: University of California Los Angeles Higher Education Institute
Komives S. R. (2007) The social model: A decade of practice and progress NASPA Leadership Exchange 5 (2), 23
Komives S.R (2009) Leadership for a Better World: Understanding the Social Change Model of Leadership Development. 2 Edition. Jossey-Bass
The Olashore Leadership Programme was developed with the assistance of US based consultant John-Ubong Silas and is a ground breaking programme in secondary schools in Nigeria.