Schools and Universities are NOT Businesses

Simon Sinek clearly articulates the power of purpose in his book Start With Why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action . He explains that when you understand Why you do what you do, then you have more power to take actions that are consistent with living your purpose.

When you start with why, people follow leaders for themselves. They do not follow leaders for their leaders.

Question Mark SkyWhat is the purpose of our schools and universities? Do they exist to make money? Is that their purpose?

Or do they exist to help children and adults learn how to learn so that they can contribute to creating a better world to live in?

Imagine a school whose purpose was to make money. Business people would be invited on to the school board and no doubt astute business decisions would be made to make sure that the school did indeed make money. Intuitively, what do you think that school would be like to go to? Sure, there would be talented teachers there. But would a talented teacher be 100% engaged with the idea that what they were doing was first about making money? Yes they would receive a nice pay-cheque, but would that make that teacher fully engaged with why the school existed?

What is your intuitive response to this scenario?

Imagine, on the other hand, a school whose purpose was to help children to learn how to learn so that they could contribute to creating a better world. Imagine that same talented teacher working in that school. Intuitively, how engaged with the school do you imagine that teacher would be?

Which of these two teachers would be more likely to go above and beyond the call of duty on a regular basis because of the purpose of their school? The one whose actions will help the school make more money, or the one whose actions will help children learn how to learn so that they can contribute to creating a better world?

If you are reading that I am suggesting that business people should not be on school or university councils then that is not what I am suggesting.

Schools and universities need to be rigorous in their financial practices and learn from the business community about how to make the best use of their money. But the reason for using business principles should always be in the context of serving the purpose of education. Education should not be used as the context for serving the purpose of making money.

Schools and universities require soul and a sense of belonging. The purpose of education must always drive their use of business principles, else they risk serving the wrong purpose and will diminish the education experience of the children and adults they serve.

Based on your experience, what is the purpose of your school or university?

You can view Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk here.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

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