Skip to content

What a Leader can learn from the Growing Participator Approach: a new approach to learning and leading?

There is a better way to learn


Recently I was at a board meeting for a network of international schools. One of the presentations was from a language teacher who is finding good success with an innovative approach to foreign language learning. This approach, called the Growing Participator Approach, does away with much of the traditional rote memory work on vocabulary, nouns and verb tenses, cognates and idioms.  Instead, students are simply given common objects from the new culture they are interested in learning about, and the teacher shares with them about that object in the new language while introducing similar objects and different objects, and helps the student “touch and feel” what the language represents.  I think there is a lesson here for us, fellow leader.

The Growing Participator Approach

For instance, in the demonstration I saw, several English-speaking board members were given dolls and small every-day objects while the teacher describe them in Vietnamese.  As the teacher pointed out the things in common between the dolls and objects, and the things that were different (male/female, adult vs. child, round vs. square, red vs. blue, etc.), the board members started to understand the Vietnamese language for these objects.

After this brief demonstration, the teacher shared how this approach, used on a consistent daily basis, helped students learn a new language faster than the traditional classroom memorization approach. He shared that as little as 30 minutes a day using the Growing Participator Approach was showing amazing results.

Once I understood his approach, it immediately reminded me of a vital leadership principle that transforms mediocre leadership into great leadership.

Start slow and build momentum, leader


Big things come from small things. To start is a good thing; to stay the course is a better thing. The race doesn’t always go to the swift but to the diligent. A relentless tortoise will always beat out a mercurial hare. 30 minutes every day is always better than a periodic over-the-top effort. The principle of the mustard seed. Just get up and get going.

It doesn’t matter if it is language or leadership: oftentimes the best approach is to simply keep chipping away at it!