Can you pick tomorrow’s future leaders out of the bunch of kids? It’s not necessarily just the bossy ones should be picked. Think about the real leaders in your daily life, and what qualities they exhibit. Those that lead by example, encourage others to do better, and bring others together to work towards a common goal. Those may seem like lofty qualities to find in small children, but if you look closely, you will see some that do exhibit those very qualities.

28 boys of class XII from a Darjeeling school passed their board examinations in 2007, they were given a unique certificate of merit — that of “honesty”. The reason: they desisted from cheating, even in the face of temptation, for two whole years.

St Joseph’s, Darjeeling, better known as North Point, considered to be one of the elite residential schools in India, will continue giving the example of this class for years to come.

School principal, Father Kinley Tshering, had challenged senior students two years ago, asking if they could promise to write their exams without invigilation. If they accepted the challenge they would not talk or cheat in the examination hall, though they would not be monitored by the faculty. No class was allowed to take up the challenge, unless every boy had agreed to assume responsibility for himself and his class.

It took a long while for any class to come up to the principal and say it was ready for the test and for a while Tshering thought the idea, which was basically his way of teaching value education to kids, had fizzled out.

“Finally boys of class XI commerce section, who are now in class XII, came up to me and said they were ready. I asked them if every boy had agreed to the experiment, because even if a single boy had not been taken into confidence, he would be under no obligation to comply and that would defeat my purpose,” said Tshering.

Even the relatively weaker boys agreed and said they were ready. This was just ahead of the terminal examination and teachers were told not to invigilate any of the exams that class XI commerce boys wrote, he added.

Since then the class has been writing all their exams, including annual examinations, without any supervision from teachers. The boys themselves collect question papers from the staff room, distribute these among the examinees, take responsibility of finishing the paper on time, collect the scripts and give them back to teachers for assessment.

“It’s not that we have just left it to the boys and have not bothered to keep a vigil, but we have done it without the boys’ knowledge. Every time we found the boys seriously writing. We have even purposely given tricky papers at times just by way of a bait, but even then the boys did not talk or try to cheat.

“I was happy to see that while the bright ones, about six of them, scored beyond 90%, the marks of the average boys or the weaker ones did not change dramatically, which is proof enough of the boys’ honesty,” Tshering said.

The Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations, Delhi, which conducts the ISC examinations, is aware of this experiment. “Though we will not be able to let the boys write their ISC examination without invigilators, it sure is a commendable effort,” said an official from Delhi. But what is better news is that the boys in general are so excited that now even class XI science and class X have met the principal and pledged that they are ready for the challenge.

Whoever said “Great leaders are made not born” was on the right track. Taking the initiative, making suggestions, providing direction, being sympathetic to the problems of others are all characteristics that can make great leaders. And fortunately, here is an example of behavior that can be encouraged in our children.

The Leadership Habitat

Leadership is the expertise to encourage the process of decision making through the capacity to listen and observe. Leadership is not the measure of a person’s skill of performance; rather it is the measure of a person’s capacity of leading the performance.

The most gifted athletes rarely make good coaches. The best violinist will not necessarily make the best conductor. Nor will the best teacher necessarily make the best head of the department.

The thrill of challenge makes a potential leader. A willingness to take responsibility will never intimidate a true leader, because the joy of accomplishment, the vicarious feeling of contributing to other people, is what leadership is all about.

A leader needs an environment to succeed. It is so important, particularly in the early days of someone’s leadership, that he or she be put into a congenial environment. An environment that threatens our sense of security or well-being splits our concentration from the cause.

Most qualities which define the characteristics of any individual begin at home. Leadership is no different. A natural leader begins the process of conscious decision making at home. It is his or her habitat which mirrors this skill of leadership.

Habitat is Latin for ‘It inhabits’. The type of environment in which any life form or a group normally lives is known as habitat. A leader contributes towards a process of building and improving his or her habitat through an involved engagement of the broader community through inclusive leadership and diverse partnerships which would nourish the habitat further

The sense of caring and sharing with one’s brethren and the sense of fellowship forms the core of a habitat. A leader has a very great role to play in acting as a catalyst for a synergetic relationship between individuals working in diverse habitat related areas and to maximise their total effectiveness.

Delhi, one of India’s richest cities faces an unparalleled water crisis. Poonam Bisht may be the best known resident of West End, an affluent neighbourhood in New Delhi. The housewife and mother of two is the suburb’s resident activist.

Ms. Bisht’s is responsible for building a rainwater harvesting system in the neighbourhood. The low tech system consists of a network of unassuming gutters in the ground that funnel rainwater to shallow pits lined with pebbles that act as a filter.

Thanks to this system, West End is able to draw on its own tubewells and no longer hires trucks to bring in water as is the norm in many Indian Cities where ground water has dried up.

This rare quality of leadership with a hands-on approach shown by Ms. Bisht is a shining example of how leadership can change the environment in which we live. She faced a number of hurdles along the way, but she had a never-say-die spirit which culminated in a better habitat for the residents of one colony of Delhi.

If every colony of Delhi takes a leaf out of her book, and has someone with the leadership shown at West End, the water problem of Delhi will be solved not by the state but by the leadership initiative of its residents.

In the words of the noted American aviation pioneer and author, Amelia Earhart “Some of us have great runways already built for us. If you have one, take off! But if you don’t have one, realize it is your responsibility to grab a shovel and build one for yourself and for those who will follow after you.”