Follow the Leader: Teaching Leadership Skills One Activity At A Time

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When it comes to being successful, most of us wouldn't automatically add "be a follower" to the list of traits of the most successful people in the world.

But often times, instead of creating environments that foster leadership skills, we instead instill traits that undermine a child's natural instinct to lead. While each of my children and grandchildren have their own unique personalities, each of them went through that stage of life when they were eager to be in charge. Not just toddler life when "I do it!" was their favorite phrase, but even as older kids when they wanted to show me that they could do the latest dance routine or how fast they could run. But all too often, teaching compliance and obedience has an undesired side effect of teaching children that only some of us should be leaders.

The truth is, leadership skills are important for all kinds of successes in life, from employment to relationships. And there is a general consensus that such skills are lacking among adults and young people, but not a lot of conversation about why that's the case. Whether you have youth and young adults in your home, classroom or youth group, you can invest in their futures by teaching them how to be leaders.

Give Them Responsibility

As a youth group leader, parent, teacher, or other authority figure, this can seem like a scary prospect. Are they ready for responsibility? Can they handle it? Give them something to be responsible for that will build their self-confidence, but don't make it something that's life-and-death. Take your teens' personal skills, strengths, and weaknesses into consideration, too. Here are some examples of responsibilities for teens.

  • * Running an errand for you, such as picking up something from the store. If they can't drive, you can drop them off to run the errand.

  • * Opening up a bank account.

  • * Let them lead a class or group.

  • * Household chores like laundry could be delegated to the young adults and teens in your home.

  • * Have them organize the set-up and clean-up of an event.

Jobs

One of those ironies of good leadership is that being under leadership is often a great way to learn it. Youth and young adults would do well to work at least part time, thus learning responsibility and also learning what is involved in good leadership. Having a job is an important responsibility that can prepare young people to lead.

Consider jobs like camp counselor or babysitter, too. Those are both jobs that put young people in charge of others.

Workshops

Are there leadership workshops available in your area? If not, see if you can hire a leadership consultant to come in and speak to your group. Maybe you can find someone to speak to your teen's class, or hold a seminar on your young adult's college campus. If there is a workshop available, take your youth group to the workshop, or sign your kids up.

Groups and Organizations

Organizations like Boy and Girl Scouts are also good ways for young adults and youth to learn leadership skills. Don't let the names "boy" and "girl" deter you - there are all kinds of opportunities in these organizations for youth and young adults. Other clubs and groups encourage leadership among members, too. Find out about what is offered in your community - even your local YMCA/YWCA might have some ideas or programs.