How to Cultivate Leadership in Teens

We can all agree that leadership is an important quality for successful adults. Good leadership is vital to the success of every business and venture. But even if a person is not in a leadership role in their workplace, leadership skills are still helpful because they inspire others to success, ensure goals are accomplished, reduce conflict, and build connections with others. Every person can be a leader, whether it’s at home, in the community, or in the workplace.

While some people are more natural leaders than others, there are leadership skills that can be learned, developed and improved. Tomorrow’s leadership depends on parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors teaching leadership skills to the youth of today. Here are a few ways that we can instill leadership in teens:

Encourage communication skills. One of the most important skills of a good leader is the ability to communicate. That does not mean a leader likes to talk a lot! Good communication means having the ability to be an excellent listener, inspire and motivate others, speak in public, and explain complex ideas in a simple way for others to understand. Tall order? Yes, for a teen, it is, but there are things you can do to improve your teen’s communication now to set them up for these skills later. Teach your teen how to be an active listener and praise them when you notice they are truly being a good listener. Encourage your teen to make oral presentations even though they feel uncomfortable. Explain important socializing skills, such as maintaining eye contact, smiling, being respectful, and asking questions to start a conversation.

Set goals and execute them. Leaders are excellent at making goals and following through to complete them. Teach your teen to set goals. First, ask them to identify their priorities and what they want to accomplish. Once they have some goals, help your teen figure out how to break down the goal into smaller, more manageable action steps. Encourage your teen to identify possible obstacles to their goal and consider how they will handle them. Make sure your teen either rewards themselves, or that you reward them, when they accomplish their goal.

Collaborate with others. Leaders work well with other people, contribute to groups with ideas and effort, and build relationships. Leaders understand that having a cooperative spirit and a healthy respect for different opinions creates a stronger team. Offer your teen the opportunity to work on teams so that they can learn these important skills.

Encourage decision-making. Sometimes as a parent, it’s just easier to make decisions for our teens, but you’re robbing them of the opportunity to develop this important leadership skill. Instead, make sure your teen has the opportunity to make decisions throughout their adolescence. Try to limit the options so that they are not overwhelmed. Teach them to weigh the pros and cons of each option in order to make the most informed decision possible.

Try new things. Leaders tend to be innovators – someone who is willing to try something new. Risk averse people rarely rise to leadership roles. While you don’t want your teen to take unnecessary risks, you do want your teen to be willing to try new things and realize that failing is only learning one way something won’t work.

Get organized. Good leaders are organized. They take notes and use planners to make sure they remember details and complete responsibilities. When you prove yourself as responsible, others begin to rely on and trust you.

Impart negotiation skills. Learning to be a good negotiator will help your teen find better solutions to problems, avoid conflict, and build better relationships. Negotiation skills take practice so encourage your teen to use them within the family first. Let your teen know that the ultimate goal of a negotiation is to achieve a “win-win” outcome. This is when both sides feel that they have gained something positive and that their point of view has been taken into consideration. Most of the time, working towards a mutually acceptable solution through brainstorming alternative strategies will achieve greater benefit for everyone involved compared to any one person holding on to their original position.

Give them practice. Leadership requires practice, so encourage your teen to join group activities that will give them the opportunity to use these skills. Your teen can gain helpful experience through sports, clubs, part-time jobs, and especially community service. Any activity in a team environment will provide them leadership opportunities.

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