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Proactive Leadership Lessons From a Chinese Classroom [Video]

pleasevoteformeDemocracy, summing up the OED, is a “government by the people…”

In Mrs. Zhang’s 3rd grade classroom in Wuhan, China democracy mirrors a talent show that allows for vote rigging.

In Please Vote for Me (2007), a documentary directed by Weijun Chen, three students from Mrs. Zhang’s 39-student class are selected to compete for the honor of becoming the “class monitor”–a enviable position that is responsible for connecting the student body with the teacher. The journey of the three candidates, lasting around a week, draws on their popularity, creative energy, intelligence, and family connections…

The student candidates, although new to the idea of democracy, quickly learn its nuances and weaknesses. Quickly, the most charismatic candidate, Cheng Cheng, begins sabotaging his opponents’ speeches by recruiting hecklers. Luo Lei, the previous class monitor, bribes his classmates with gifts and pulls the shirts of his louder opponents. The remaining candidate, Xu Xiaofei, becomes popular after she breaks down in tears and reports courageously to the classroom that she won’t cry or be weak when she’s elected class monitor.

Intrigue increases as Cheng Cheng promises the friends of Luo Lei key positions within his future cabinet. Luo Lei responds by encouraging his class to take a field trip sponsored by his keenly political father. Xu Xiaofei systemically collects the faults of her opponents, memorizes them, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss them.

I’ll remain mute as to who wins. It’s worth finding out for yourself.

Running For Office: Moving Agendas Forward

Pushing your personality, agenda, or ideas takes hard work. As the candidates in Mrs. Zhang’s class demonstrate, it produces tears, sweat, anger, periods of depression, and moments of smiling optimism. Watching three children who have never before pushed their agenda forward on a large scale and who have never even heard the word ‘democracy’ illustrate the natural  steps people take in order to win people over and create alliances.

They instinctively know who their allies are and always ask for their advice. They talk longer with their potential allies and constantly make sure they are on board. When they approach their potential resistors they smile, shake hands, and take time to discuss the flaws of their opposition. When they meet resistors they either pull on their shirts or offer them large favors in order to win them over.

In Mrs. Zhang’s class we can see where instincts are valuable and where they can lead us astray. It might seem like a good idea to make your opponent look bad on a big stage, but perhaps it may gain him sympathy. It also might appear wise to present your other talents as a way of showing off your skill set, but they might make you look unfocused and undisciplined. The candidates in Please Vote for Me learned these lessons the hard way. However, learning them at such an early age is great exercise.



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