According to his own logic, Merv Roberts should pay tuition for the classes he will teach this fall.
“I learn more than my students do,” he said.
Roberts, 74, will instruct a Patriot Recreation Education Program class at Stevenson High School titled “Discover the Leader Within You.” He previewed his syllabus during his Aug. 5 presentation to the Buffalo Grove Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce.
Roberts’ credentials are lengthy, including stints at Ford Motor Company, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Baxter International and Harvard University’s business school.
He speaks at conferences around the country and is president of the SHS Board of Education.
Roberts told his audience at Brunswick’s, 350 McHenry Road, that of all the known methods of teaching, he was using the weakest: sit and listen.
The best way to gain new knowledge, he said, is to teach others what you have already learned — which he will do again in a class that meets from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays beginning Sept. 4.
During his speech, Roberts handed out sheets of paper to audience members with his assessment of 10 things leaders show know. He pointed out that the sheets had plenty of space, on which listeners could write their own thoughts.
“I’ve only got 20 minutes to talk, but I’ve got 30 hours of materials,” Roberts told them.
Roberts explained those principles in an interview with Pioneer Press:
Q: Leadership is a commitment to decades of constantly trying to expand your capabilities.
A: It’s a lifelong learning activity, so, you need to think about it from that perspective.
Q. Leaders must cultivate positive relationships with other leaders.
A. I remember the winter of 2008, before the elections, when there were a lot of candidates for president. This is not a political statement of any kind, but I looked at Obama and I thought that he had the greatest potential for leadership. But, I think, while he’s strong from a vision point of view, his weakness is building relationships with other people in government. And I had no clue how bad Congress would be, in terms of working with the President.
Q. Leadership is making the decisions, even when the right course is uncertain.
A. Leaders have to act. If leaders don’t act, nothing’s going to happen.
Q. Leadership is finding ways to expand the capacities of your organization.
A. When you come back from a conference and your boss asks you how it went, do not say, ‘It went great, I learned a lot.’ That’s the wrong answer. Tell him about something you learned.
Q. Leadership is above management.
A. There are things that are important, and there are things that are urgent. Leaders need to spend their time on things that are important, but not urgent. Managers spend their time on the things that are important and urgent.
Q. Leaders leave a legacy behind, but that legacy is not what people think of the leader.
A. Your legacy is what you did for the organization you’re leaving.
Q. Leaders are still practicing the fundamentals, regularly.
A. Whether it’s a top athlete or a top musician, they got there because they did something called deliberate practice. They did it even though they were eliminating a lot of other things that they might like to do, putting a lot of hard effort into it. In my class, we always talk about how none of us, myself included, want to put all that time into one thing. But, even a little bit of deliberate practice has advantages to it.
Q. Leaders question and evaluate themselves.
A. If you’re going to get better, you’ve got to constantly assess everything I’ve already talked about today on a regular basis.