Encouraging Leadership Skills in Youth
Leadership is a valuable skill set to have, especially in adulthood. Employers are always looking for good leaders, and even if a person is not in a leadership role in their workplace, leadership skills are still helpful at home or in the community.
While some people are more natural leaders than others, leadership skills can be learned, developed and improved. Leadership development can be a lifelong process. Tomorrow’s leadership depends on parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors teaching important skills to the youth of today. Here are a few ways that we can instill leadership in teens:
Model leadership. Studies show that parental role modeling is the primary way that children learn the values they will carry for life. Research also demonstrates that children are incredibly observant about their parents and learn to behave in the same ways regardless of what their parents say. If leadership is important to you, then you must show it. Make sure that you take on leadership roles, and talk to your children about what you are doing and why you are doing it.
Encourage teamwork. Leadership qualities in childrenare developed quickly through teamwork. Letting them participate in team-based extracurricular activities, such as sports, can accelerate the mastering of communication, social, problem-solving, and cooperation skills. Through teamwork, kids utilize their natural talents to accomplish a group goal and develop a healthy respect for different opinions.
Instill good communication skills. Good communication is a key component to being an effective leader. Find ways to help teens understand others’ viewpoints. Teach teens how to actively listen and how to respond to others in a calm and respectful way. Encourage your teen to make oral presentations even though they might feel uncomfortable. Explain important socializing skills, such as maintaining eye contact, smiling, and asking questions to start a conversation.
Encourage service. Every great leader is focused on either a purpose, people, or a cause. Volunteering provides youth with so many benefits, such as instilling a good work ethic, offering a new perspective on life, developing a sense of meaning and self-confidence, creating gratitude for what you have, and providing hands-on experience. Youth are curious and inclined to ask many questions around the why, how, and what they can do to help. This sparks creative thinking around solutions to real-world problems.
Develop problem-solving skills. Leaders are great problem solvers! Give youth a chance to solve their own problems before stepping in. Show youth how to brainstorm for solutions, evaluate pros and cons of different options, and break a solution down into smaller tasks to get the job done. Teens need problem solving skills to be able to put together logical reasoning and ideas that work better for all involved. If you need tips for instilling this important skill, please read our previous blog, Teaching Problem Solving Skills. When teens feel confident solving problems, they are more likely to speak up as a leader.
Encourage decision-making. Sometimes as a parent, it’s just easier to make decisions for our children, but then we’re robbing them of the opportunity to develop this important leadership skill. Leaders must make difficult decisions frequently, so your children need practice. Create opportunities for your children to make choices. For instance, allow your teen to decide how they will spend their personal time and money or ask your teen to help the family create house rules or choose a vacation location. Talk through the pros and cons of the different choices they consider. As youth gain experience with making decisions, they gain more confidence, become more accountable and learn to accept the consequences of their choices.
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, as well as establish a reward for themselves when they accomplish their goal.
Teach them to embrace failure. Developing resilience and an appreciation of failure is an important leadership skill. When kids are unafraid of failure, they’re more inclined to persist and keep trying. When you teach your teen that it’s ok to fail, they’ll learn faster and try again, rather than dwelling on unsuccessful attempts. Don’t let your own fear of their failures get in the way of setting them up for a healthy perspective of mistakes.
Let them choose their own path.Don’t live vicariously through your children. Teens who know themselves, and follow their passions and interests, are far more likely to become good leaders. Youth are naturally curious, ambitious, and enthusiastic so let them follow their hearts even if it’s an area that you don’t find interesting or profitable. Additionally, if a teen is really interested in something, they are more likely to feel comfortable and/or excited taking on a leadership role and will find it easier to motivate or inspire others.
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.