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A New Mindset

Instead of seeing children through the lens of a normal distribution curve—some kids are naturally smart and others are not—The Leader in Me paradigm sees that every child is capable, every child is a leader. This paradigm changes everything.

SPM has achieved the honour of being the first Lighthouse school outside of the USA. We have implemented the Leader in Me program since 2009 and our students have been enjoying its success. The journey to a Lighthouse school has meant that we have applied the Leader in Me to the highest standards and we continue this journey to new heights.

The Leader in Me is a whole-school transformation model that acts like the operating system of a computer—it improves the performance of all other programs. Based on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Leader in Me equips students with the self-confidence and skills they need to thrive in the 21st-century economy.

What would be possible if your school were filled with students who were responsible, who showed initiative, who were creative, who knew how to set goals and meet them, who got along with people of various backgrounds and cultures, and who could resolve conflicts and solve problems?

This is a reality at Leader in Me schools across the country. It started in 1999 when struggling school A.B. Combs Elementary was asked to reinvent itself or be shut down. When Principal Muriel Summers asked parents and business leaders what they wanted in their schools, she heard the following:

  • Leadership
  • Accountability
  • Adaptability
  • Initiative and Self-Direction
  • Cross-Cultural Skills
  • Responsibility
  • Problem Solving
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Teamwork

This feedback represents what most people believe — that our schools should not merely be focused on improving test scores, but should provide opportunities for students to develop their full potential. As Muriel searched for answers, she attended a 7 Habits workshop and noticed how comprehensive the habits were in covering the same needs expressed by her community. She and staff developed a leadership theme and a school mission statement: To Develop Leaders, One Child at a Time. They taught the 7 Habits not as a curriculum, but in a ubiquitous fashion, integrating them into the curriculum, traditions, systems, and culture of A.B. Combs.

As Muriel Summers, principal of A.B. Combs Elementary sat among business leaders, she could not help but wonder why the 7 Habits were not taught to young people.

In 2006, A.B. Combs became the #1 magnet school in the country. The leadership model began to be replicated by other schools with similar results. In 2008, Dr. Stephen R. Covey published the book The Leader in Me, which documents the leadership model these schools pioneered and its outcomes for staff, students, parents, and the community.

The second publication of this book also highlights the achievements of SPM and its continued journey.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Defined: I am a responsible person. I take initiative. I choose my actions, attitudes, and moods. I do not blame others for my wrong actions. I do the right thing without being asked, even when no one is looking.
Action: I am a proactive person by making sure my words and actions help make Sekolah Perkumpulan Mandiri a safe and positive place for everyone.
Hand Signal: Place your thumb to your chest.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Defined: I plan ahead and set goals. I do things that have meaning and make a difference. I am an important part of my classroom and contribute to my school's mission and vision. I look for ways to be a good citizen.
Action: I begin with the end in mind by looking for ways to be a student who make good choices that help us all be successful.
Hand Signal: Begin (point to your feet) With the End (both hands point to the sky) in Mind (point to your head).

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Defined: I spend my time on things that are most important. This means I say no to the things I know I should not do. I set priorities, make a schedule, and follow my plan. I am disciplined and organized.
Action: I put first things first by using time wisely so that my work is done and I say no to things that prevent me from being a positive and successful person.
Hand Signal: Hold up your index finger each time you say the word "first."

Habit 4: Think Win-Win

Defined: I balance courage for getting what I want with consideration for what others want. When conflicts arise, I look for a win-win solution.
Action: I think win-win by working positively with others so that we all learn and grow as individuals.
Hand Signal: Think (point to your head) Win (one hand out, palm open) Win (the other hand out, palm open).

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Defined: I listen to other people's ideas and feelings. I try to see things from their viewpoint (paradigm). I listen to others without interrupting. I listen with my ears, my eyes, and my heart. I am confident voicing my ideas.
Action: I seek first to understand and then to be understood by being a good listener and by being respectful and courageous in sharing my ideas.
Hand Signal: Place your hand over your brow like you're looking over the horizon, then cut both hands behind your ears.

Habit 6: Synergize

Defined: I value other people's strengths and learn from them. I get along well with others, even people who are different than me. I work well in groups. I seek out other people's ideas because I know that by teaming with others, we can create better solutions than any one of us can alone. I look for Third Alternatives.
Action: I synergize by getting along with others and working cooperatively with others.
Hand Signal: Put your hand out toward the opposite forearm and grab your forearm. Then shake your arms up and down like a "mixer."

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Defined: I take care of my body by eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep (body). I learn in lots of ways and lots of places, not just at school (brain). I spend time with family and friends (heart). I take time to find meaningful ways to help people (soul). I balance all four parts of myself.
Action: I sharpen the saw by exercising and spend time with my friends.
Hand Signal: Pretend you are sawing a tree.

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