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false leadership examples i was taught in school

I started thinking about this topic when I was looking back at my own experience of leadership. The very first time I experienced leadership was when I was appointed (not elected!) as head of my class - a concept similar to class presidents you see in American high school films.

The position had its responsibilities and prestige. Only the best students were appointed. A class president would be in charge of carrying around the class registrar - a book where all teachers would put down the absences and the marks students would get during class. Everybody feared that big registrar. When our teachers would open it at the beginning of every lesson, the class would go dead silent. Making mistakes in it, even for teachers, was a big deal. So being in charge of the safety of the book was a pretty big deal for the student who was appointed as class president.

Another responsibility of the class president was to discipline the class and tell the head teacher about any misbehaviour such as cutting class, which is an unattainable and unfair task to put on a child and a peer.

And the reward for doing this job was to have your photograph on the so-called 'honorary wall' where all the best students were featured. This honorary wall was right next to our headmaster's office and the school bell. Everyone who visited the school would go past this wall and would admire the proud faces on the wall. At that time, I believed that having my photograph on that wall was important. It was a goal of mine that I really wanted to achieve. But as soon as that happened, I realised that it was actually a meaningless because it did not change my life, my relationship with my peers in any meaningful way.

(c) A honorary wall in a school in Russia.


(c) Canal3. Class registrar.

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Looking back at the whole experience of being a class leader, which I happened to repeat several more times in high school and university, made me realize that the role of a class leader was a false representation of leadership. The role did not presume building meaningful relationships with my classmates, setting goals for the group and helping them/us to achieve them. It was a role that helped the teachers and professors to discipline and communicate with the class, rather onesidedly and using someone else's work.

This is not to say that the concept of a class president is not a good idea. It can be a useful communication tool between the students and professors and/or school management. It can be done properly and the role can be developed to serve the needs of a group of students that elect themselves a representative that is able to translate their needs and goals into a vision and an action plan.

A  good example of such leadership was when a class president (named Tudor to whom I lost the elections that year) managed to negotiate with professors (at the Lyceum of Academy of Sciences of Moldova) that they announce the students about any upcoming written exams and papers two weeks before the scheduled date as opposed to having students be surprised on a short notice before the exam, which was usually the case and was received by the students as unfair and abusive. Tudor, the president of the class was able to identify a need (I would even argue that it is a student's right) to be informed in due time about any upcoming evaluation of their knowledge and skills, and was able to communicate it to the students and school management, negotiated it, and implemented it. After he managed to achieve it, I was glad that I lost the election to him. He did a better job of being a class president than I.


(c) Iulia Tvigun. Tudor Stubei,

class president and myself.

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