“Great Leaders Create Great Followers”…I don’t think so…

To me, as a TEFL teacher in Astana, Kazakhstan, quotes about education are always inspiring.  Especially when written by my own Kazakh students.  I am privileged to have ten teachers in my class of Professional development students.  They are mature, driven and dedicated to improving their craft of teaching.  Here’s something I came across though that I thought was  a real stumper.  “Great leaders create great followers” ????

In the past I look up every quote that I come across to make sure it was written correctly. I found that this quote had actually been reversed.  It should read “A great leader is a great follower.” Or “Great followers make the best leaders.” Wow, it tells you a little bit about the Kazakh mentality.  I will look back to see what the person really meant, to look at the context of that quote.  Did they mangle it badly or is it really what Kazakhs think? Follow the crowd, follow the leader.  As an American, I come from a democracy, if we don’t like the leader in government, we throw the bum out at the next election.

Another quote was by an educator who took to the sky, a NASA astronaut who was really a teacher.  Christa McAuliffe said, “I touch the future, I teach.” I often think that when I am in front of my eager, inquisitive students in Kazakhstan, they are Kazakhstan’s future hope.  Another famous American whose life was stopped short but not quite like Christa’s was Martin Luther King, Jr. “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.” With the new university in Astana, we have to take a LOT of things by faith that the upward climb will lead to the next level of achievement.  These things take time.

The following are more quotes on education:

B.F. Skinner “Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.” (New Scientist, May 21, 1964)

Spanish born American philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) wrote: “A man’s feet must be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.”

The following quotes are very teacher-centered, which is the predominant method of teaching handed down from the Old Soviet era.

“The way the teacher is defines the way the students are.”

“To become a great teacher, you need to know two things: the subject you are going to teach and how to teach it.”

“A teacher takes your hand, opens your mind and touches your heart.”

Seneca: “If a man knows not what harbor he seeks, any wind is the right wind.” Apparently the Russian translation of Seneca’s quote yields the following or this is what the student wrote in his application: “When a man does not know what harbor he is making his way to, no wind is favorable for him.”

The following quotes are from the highly revered Kazakh poet and philosopher, Abay Qunanbayuli “Every person should find the right place in his life.”

Kazakh saying: “A person should learn other languages but he is to respect his own native language first of all.”

Abai Kunanbayev: “Can the man be considered as dead if he left behind immortal works?”

Aristotle: “The soul of a child is like a clean slate on which nothing is written.” The tabula rasa effect.  But Aristotle also believed this: “The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead.”

The Greek philosopher, Laertius Diogenes wrote the following: “The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.” This gets back to the first quote by Christa McAuliffe touching the future by teaching.  I believe the president of this country of Kazakhstan would agree with Diogenes and McAuliffe.  He is known to have said in a speech the following:

“The main objective of modernization of Kazakhstan’s education is to prepare competitive specialists.  It means that the entire educational system of the country should move towards innovative education.”

The question remains for the Ministry of Education in Kazakhstan to be proactive about: Are great leaders being produced with innovative teaching methodologies and technology or just more great followers?

2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    […] Soviet, Stalin Today I’ll continue with some more education quotes in what I started in yesterday’s blog.  I agree with “Great Followers Make the Best Leaders.” Why is that true, I may […]

  2. 2

    Michael said,

    I was searching for some KZ blogs, and I just came across yours. I look forward to reading it more regularly now.

    Anyway, when I first read the quote, I understood it differently. “Great leaders create great followers.” I read “great followers” as not being great at following per se, but rather being great in general. That is good leaders develop their followers and make them great. I would agree with that. A leader shouldn’t just command his followers but should actually develop their personal skills and abilities. Maybe the quote wasn’t intended to be read like that, but that’s just how I understood it.


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