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All students in the Master of Science in Leadership and Change program at St. Edward’s take Associate Professor of Management Tom Sechrest’s Leadership Theory and Practice course. They analyze leadership theories and examine styles of some of the world’s great leaders through history. They also learn from leaders who are a little closer to home. Here’s a look inside Sechrest’s classroom.

When most of us think of what a leader is, we go straight to the top: presidents and CEOs, kings and Popes. Yet many of us overlook the leaders who make a concrete difference in our everyday lives: The supervisor we admire, the pastor we respect, and the grandmother who’s held together generations of family.

These men and women may also be the key to unlock the secrets of successful leadership. As Tom Sechrest explains: “When you talk to people who are important to you who are also leaders, you’ll listen more openly to the things they say are important.”

But to truly learn from these people, Sechrest suggests structured interviews: Pick two or three people in your life to sit down for 30-minute interviews about leadership, and let these seven questions guide the conversation:

  • How would you define leadership?
  • In what ways did you learn about leadership?
  • What is a key element of leadership that you think many people do not focus on?
  • If you had it to do all over again, what would you do differently as a leader?
  • Think about the best leader you have ever interacted with: what made them the best?
  • Think about the worst leader you have ever interacted with: what made them the worst?
  • What’s one thing about leadership I didn’t ask you that you would like to tell me about?

Sechrest almost guarantees that the answers will be transformative to your own leadership. Take careful notes, and review them afterward to think about the ways that others’ lessons might apply to your own life. “The real goal is for people to use what they’ve learned to develop their own definition of leadership,” he says.

The MSLC program at St. Edward’s University prepares its students to lead positive change within an organization through a comprehensive understanding of leadership from individual, group, organizational and global perspectives.

Erin Peterson is a freelance writer.