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Leadership Lessons From Our Favorite Teachers

4. LouAnne Johnson, Dangerous Minds

Retired U.S. Marine LouAnne Johnson has a similar challenge as Stand and Deliver's Escalante. She is up against inner-city, gang-oriented, low achieving students that give her little respect at the beginning of the year. Her task as their English teacher seems too tall an order with students that essentially were "unteachable."

But again, with unconventional tactics and a refusal to stick to the prescribed curriculum, the teacher is able to reach her students, even the most difficult ones.

>>>3 Business Lessons From Joe Paterno

Jennifer Lee Magas, vice president of Magas Media Consultants and an adjunct professor at Fairfield University teaching professional and business writing courses, says Johnson's dedication to her team, aka students, was a strong factor in her ability to connect with the kids.

"I've conducted leadership training sessions with managers that were experts in their fields of expertise but they were cold, aloof and were not invested in their employees' success," writes Magas, who formerly held corporate human resources positions. "Yet studies show the highest performing managers and leaders are the most open and caring. Employees from all walks of life react positively to their manager's positive encouragement and openness and this translates into higher performance."

In particular, Johnson's strategy to be approachable to these kids, most of whom come from broken homes with little discipline is what matters most. She also connects with the students by "letting them have their own voice, through language and writing. By letting the unspoken speak, she instills confidence in these students that they can learn," Magas adds.

"If you can't show you care, you don't get the buy in and you're not going to have someone work on what they need to do or even make it to work on time. That starts from the top down," Magas says.

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5. Mr. Hand, Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Our final teacher, Fast Times at Ridgemont High's Mr. Hand is an example of how not to manage.

In one of the more memorable scenes from the movie, surfer/stoner student Jeff Spicoli seems to not care in the least about Mr. Hand's class subject matter -- American history -- exemplified by Spicoli getting a pizza delivery during class. After a lengthy discussion on whose time is being wasted more, an enraged Mr. Hand "shares" the pizza with the other students and not Spicoli.

On the one hand, the tumultuous (and hysterical) relationship between teacher and student shows how stern lecturing is likely not the best way to engage people. As a leader, you want your subordinates to believe in your vision by engaging them as well as making them a part of the building process in achieving the goals, Professor Roberto says.

On the other hand, Mr. Hand shows a valuable lesson in that time should not be wasted. In one of the final scenes, he shows up at Spicoli's house on prom night to "waste" his time teaching the lost Cuba lesson from pizza day.

Translated: time is money, money is time. Your employees need to be accountable for their responsibilities.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to:

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.
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