& Case Studies
The START Leadership Process
The START Leadership Process is a synthesis of compelling research in the practices of organizations and families known to be most effective in creating conditions where everyone can be and become their best. The case studies here demonstrate examples of several elements in the model that reinforce raising kids who can fare well, thrive and prosper now and as adults.
These 5 steps can be used personally and professionally, in families, classrooms, and the workplace.
S: Articulate Your Strategy - Vision, Values & Goals
T: Select Tactics to achieve the Strategy
A: Assess progress to stay on track
R: Establish Routines to transfer responsibilities
T: Embed Training to develop foundational skills
Family Case Study:
A mother of a ten-year-old shares her story with START when she got an email from her son’s school informing her that he had missed an assignment that day.
“It was 11:00 at night. I got a ding alerting me to a new email. It was from the school’s communication system, informing me that my son, Cole, hadn’t turned in his science homework that day. It was not like him to miss an assignment. I was so upset, I was halfway down the hall to his room with plans to wake him up to ‘talk’ about it when I caught myself and asked ‘What would the Leadership approach be in this case?’
One of the goals in our family Strategy is to raise kids who are responsible for and capable of solving their own problems. So I went back to bed.
At breakfast the next morning, I asked Cole how things were going for him. Did he feel he had enough time to get his school work done on top of karate, Boy Scouts, and lacrosse? The stress and anxiety I could see on his face broke my heart. The story came pouring out — that he had failed to finish his science homework and that he didn’t want to go to school. He felt sick and overwhelmed.
We talked about how much he had going on and how he felt about dropping one of his activities. He blurted out karate — and shared that he’d wanted to quit, now that he was playing a team sport that he loved, but didn’t want to let down his instructor. I let him know how much I admired his consideration for his teacher, but that making choices according to what we think others want can sometimes cause us to make decisions that aren’t healthy for us. He decided to schedule time with his instructor before his next lesson to discuss his decision to leave.
I asked how he might handle the situation of the missed homework with his teacher. He brainstormed a few ideas, and with me acting as a sounding board, he decided to meet with his teacher before class to apologize and to let her know he would be turning in the assignment the next day. He also decided to share his decision to drop one of his activities so that it wouldn’t happen again.
On the drive home later that day, he was excited to tell me that the conversation had gone great! His teacher offered to give him half credit for the late assignment along with an opportunity to do some extra credit work to make up the difference. He and I agreed to check in regularly — to be sure he was staying on track and to prevent things from becoming so overwhelming again.”
Family Case Study:
A father, hearing about START for the first time, had questions about how START could help his first grade daughter get dressed on school day mornings.
“How can I use this START leadership approach to help me get my six-year-old dressed in the morning? We battle every day about what she’s going to wear.”
I asked, “What is your goal for your daughter in terms of getting dressed when she goes off to college? Who will be choosing what she wears?”
“Well,” he laughed, “I certainly hope she will be able to get herself dressed appropriately by then.”
“When do you suppose you’ll stop making the decisions for her? At six, you know she’s capable of getting dressed on her own, and once she has a Routine and some guidelines, she’ll be capable of making appropriate choices. She’s likely arguing with you because she knows she’s capable, and she wants to do it herself.”
Before I finished the sentence, he understood. “I’ve been making decisions for her that she can make for herself — that’s why she’s resisting and rebelling. She wants to do it herself.”
We talked over how he and his wife would convey their confidence in their daughter’s ability, and transfer the responsibility for getting dressed to her. The plan was to start with a direct discussion at the dinner table, including an apology for not recognizing her capability sooner and an acknowledgment of his role in the arguments. They would ask for her thoughts and input and then work with her to organize her closet and drawers in sections for school, play, and special occasion clothes (Coaching leadership style). And then after a brief transition period (Collaboration leadership style), they would step back and let her take over the routine of selecting the clothes appropriate for the occasion.
Just a few days later, he reported good news. “When we started the discussion, she dashed from the dinner table to her room to start reorganizing her closet — before we’d even finished the conversation. We had fun setting up her closet and dresser drawers. She’s so excited and proud to be making these decisions herself. We made a calendar together. She checks each night before bed so she can lay out what she’ll wear the next day. We’ve not had one argument since. Now, instead of arguing, we’re reinforcing how responsible and capable she is (Championing leadership style) in doing her own work.”
Over the next few weeks, he reported that they had successfully added Routines for getting ready for bed, getting ready for school, and setting the dinner table.
Teacher Case Study:
Developing Responsibility & Resourcefulness
In introducing the START Leadership process to her classroom, one teacher successfully set the stage using the assignment the Duke professor gives to his freshman English class: Write a paper, any length on any topic, and turn it in the next class.
“Something I found to be valuable was simply having conversations with my students about many of the concerns we teachers - and probably parents - have about ensuring they develop the responsibility, resilience, and resourcefulness they need to succeed.
I started first by mimicking the Duke professor’s assignment we read about in the introduction to the START Handbook. Wow! Was it ever eye-opening!
I asked my students to complete a writing assignment. I instructed that it should be three paragraphs and that it could be about ANYTHING they wanted. Immediately, I was inundated with questions! They asked “Can I write about my dog? Can I write about something I already wrote about? Does it have to have a problem and a solution? The questions went on and on.
I observed carefully. I noticed 3 students out of 24 actually got right to work and even seemed excited about the task. I was astonished. This mirrored almost exactly the experience of the Duke professor in his freshman English class where 10% of his students were able to get to work while 90% were lost without repeated directions and support.
I waited awhile, answered some questions, and then finally stopped the class. I explained what I was doing and why I was doing. I explained that I was reading a book to help me help my students become more independent, more ready for the world, and happier.
I read pages 3 and 4 of the START Handbook to my students describing the Professor’s assignment. I watched as some of my most intelligent, hardest workers gasped, realizing that they did exactly what those freshman English students had done. All the students who had asked questions, all but the 3 who got to work, realized that they were among the 90% of students that had not yet developed the leadership skills necessary to be as successful as they could be.
I also saw that the 3 students who had gotten right to work and ran with the assignment were smiling triumphantly. They recognized that they were among the 10% that were discussed in the book!
The exercise allowed for meaningful conversation, thoughtful self-reflection, and terrific ideas for an action plan. I admitted to the students that I have been part of the “problem” as I had been the one who has been answering their every question, clarifying their every concern - stepping in as soon as they hit a roadblock. It was a very meaningful activity. I committed to taking action to shift my behaviors to support them in developing a set of leadership skills that could help them navigate well in their own lives. And they committed to shifting theirs.
And now, we have a common frame of reference that the students continue to use. Students will start to ask a question about something we’ve just discussed and will stop and say “Uh oh..I am being part of the 90% again!” This is a mindset change that must be made, and while we have a long way to go, developing the kids' self-awareness (and mine) is proving to be an effective, first step!