Column: From SAS success to empowering British schoolchildren, Floyd Woodrow shares why great leadership is all about values

By Floyd Woodrow | 10 Jun 2019 | Leaders

Tempus Online's new columnist reflects on his newest challenge – Compass For Life

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* Floyd Woodrow at the House of Commons launch of the Compass For Life Foundation [Photography © Colin Hart UK for Vantage Media Group]

Floyd Woodrow MBE DCM is a leadership specialist, author and entrepreneur. Woodrow’s early career was as a soldier in the Parachute Regiment before joining the Special Air Service at the age of 22. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his work in Iraq and an MBE for his work in Afghanistan. During his time in the military Floyd studied law and psychology, and he is now an award-winning global lecturer on leadership.

In his first fortnightly column for Tempus Online, Woodrow reflects on how launching his new children's charity, the Compass For Life Foundation, may be his greatest accomplishment yet…

Floyd Woodrow on his true North Star

Whenever I talk about leadership, I always start with asking: what is your true North Star? What is your dream? What are we aiming for from a professional and personal perspective? For the past four years, one of my biggest goals has been to launch my Compass For Life Foundation, which is all about empowering children in disadvantaged areas of the UK by taking my CEO leadership training and applying it to their dreams, education and aspirations within schools.

We launched the Compass For Life Foundation on 4 June with an event at the Houses of Parliament, and from there plan to roll it out so the public can become aware of our work and, importantly, so we can look to get as much investment as we can in order to bring the project into as many schools and disadvantaged areas of the UK as possible.

For me, it’s important that education is an equal opportunity for everybody. That's one of the reasons I'm so pleased to launch the Compass For Life Foundation within the House of Commons. We've got real evidence that our programme helps not just teachers and parents support their children, but really helps children raise their aspirations and get to a place where they can start to map out their journey and take responsibility – not just for their education, but their actions and attitudes too. We empower children at every level, teaching them how to be leaders in life and buck the statistics.

The most disadvantaged children are usually a year behind their peers at primary school level, and about 23 months at secondary. There's no way we can bridge that gap unless something changes – and I think our methodology can close that gap in a way that helps all children.

In the coming weeks, I'll be sharing some of the key elements to becoming a good leader – the tricks, tribulations and challenges that leadership might entail – but I think that whether you're the CEO of a company, the head of your family or trying to reach a new personal goal, great leadership is all about your ethos, and allowing the people around you to share those values.

As we look to roll out Compass For Life across schools, one of the things that stands out from our pilots is how business leaders, teachers and parents have been consistently astounded when they hear the children in class open up about their aspirations as we plan their Maps For Life – one of our key tools – and examine their values. When these kids say they value courage, passion, resilience, you realise that these aren't just someone else's words. Whether they want to be a fashion designer, a hairdresser, a builder, a banker, they can start to really strategise just what it's going to take to reach their goals.

Now that they have meaning attached to their lessons and trust that their teachers understand their values, school starts to make sense. They can identify their team – classmates, teachers, parents, coaches. Their dreams may change, but that understanding of how to develop a winning strategy and work with others to achieve their aims will stay with them forever.

And the best part of what we do with the kids? It's exactly the same as the workshops I hold for the top CEOs in the world. How I speak to a director of Deutsche Bank, or managers in the NHS, is exactly how I speak to 16-year-old Megan or 10-year-old Evie. We don't hold children back; we support them and encourage them in their hard work. Then, when they're older, they've already developed the resilience, courage and teamwork skills needed to success on another level.

My next goal is to see the Compass For Life Foundation help children become our future leaders on a national scale. We're looking to work with more than 200 schools within the first 18 months, train up teachers and get them onto an online platform. We want to take children on a journey where they become lifelong learners, great communicators, who are looking at the world from a helicopter view – asking themselves, 'What do I want to achieve? How do I bring others with me? What am I going to give back?'.

I've worked on leadership training for much of my career, whether in the military , with international sports teams or as an entrepreneur, but with all these different elements I believe there's a common thread. We often complicate the idea of 'leadership' and what it is to be a great leader. But, once you examine the depth of it – as we do in the Compass For Life methodology – you can start to apply leadership to all parts of your life. However old or young you are.

Floyd Woodrow will share more leadership advice on Tempus Online on 24 June 2019

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