The Nature of Leadership: Engaging our Youth to Become Better Leaders
Excellent leadership skills can come naturally to some, but early experiences impact our adult leadership potential. At a young age, children learn to develop leadership skills by being nurtured and encouraged by adults such as parents, family members, teachers and caregivers. Qualities imposed by adults, such as moral development, communication, and diversity can all greatly affect the way children become leaders. Reflect on your own leadership qualities to see how you can better impact young adults to become future leaders.
Children learn valuable leadership skills during their childhood such as communication, organization, problem solving, and even creativity. A leader is someone many people look to for direction, inspiration, and guidance. As an adult, enriching a child’s life as early as possible with leadership skills, experiences, and knowledge, is essential to their adult leadership potential for the latter part of their life. This includes social and cultural norms, as well as rules and laws that have the ability to influence a child’s proper attitude and behaviors. Adults have a strong ability to help shape morality within children by teaching the difference between right and wrong, how to see things from another’s point of view, and how to work with others in team situations.
What can you do to strengthen moral development?
The best way to teach morals and ethics is through example. It is important to create a solid moral code—a code that will guide children to stand up for their beliefs and act right, even without us. Look for moral issues and talk about them as they come up: from TV shows and news events to situations at home, school, and with friends. Tell your child how you feel about the issue and why. A child’s moral development is an ongoing process, and you are someone who has the ability to be a positive example and instill beliefs, knowledge and habits that will be the foundation your children use forever (act wisely!).
Communication with children at a young age is imperative to the leadership skills they identify with as adults. While children may need to hear messages repeated several times, it is best to learn from good communication and seeing how others respond to them. It is important to model effective leadership behavior to children and communicate with them so they can effectively learn the difference between right and wrong through a system of trial and error. Children are inherently drawn to the good moral values, but adults who engage children in good behavior, allow them opportunities to do a good job, and offer praise when appropriate are likely to strengthen a child’s leadership skills at a very young age.
Much of a child’s leadership skills are developed during their time at school. In an article by Ann Lieberman titled Can Teachers Really Be Leaders? she states “Teachers who become leaders are in a unique position to make change happen. They have learned a great deal about how to teach well and know how to build the kind of school and classroom conditions that can help transform schools.” Without a doubt, teachers play a huge role, whether they realize it or not, in developing leadership within their students, their classroom, and their entire school. Teachers intend to serve others and make a difference in the lives of their students and, by doing so, help shape the future.
What can you do to encourage communication skills?
At school, extracurricular activities such as student government groups, sports, and clubs all have the ability to engage young adults in becoming better future leaders. Actively being involved in any of those areas allows opportunities for the development of communication as well as team building experiences. The leadership skills gained from ones personal involvement in extracurricular activities is especially important during one’s academic career. For example, college admissions offices are often looking for more than students with great grades…they are looking for students with outstanding involvement in athletics, school clubs, and community organizations.
Considering diversity within leadership allows a group of leaders to be created who have an understanding and appreciation towards people’s differences and unique characteristics. Children learning about diversity not only at home, but also in academia, creates multiple environments where peoples’ differences and unique characteristics will be highlighted as a useful skill. Having children understand diversity and implementing its importance at a young age will help and encourage them to work together with others and give them an opportunity to learn about the individualities of those around them. Encouraging more diversity within our lives and implementing a greater knowledge about diversity to children is extremely beneficial to society by allowing them to recognize others with different skills, experiences, attitudes, and backgrounds.
What can you do to encourage diversity?
Be open-minded and learn about issues and concerns of other people. Get to know people who are “different” than you by making a conscious effort to be exposed to people who act, speak, look or worship differently than yourself, and consider the words and impacts of your actions. Model this type of behavior to youth through your normal daily interactions. Diversity has the ability to create curiosity and an interest in different peoples and cultures. Instilling these values and beliefs, especially in our youth, of accepting others despite dissimilarities allows our society to come together and work in unity with others. Children that are exposed to diversity at a younger age will then grow up to become leaders that are able to work across differences and assist teams towards a common goal.
Leadership is a Continuous Process
All in all, the development of leadership skills within one’s life is a continuing process that never ends. Leadership starts at a young age when children are learning from their parents, teachers, and society. This development then continues through high school and young adulthood where we experience diverse situations and learn to work through these situations with others. Everyone has the ability to learn new skills and be enriched with new experiences that help them become a better leader in our society. Moral development, communication, and diversity are aspects of leadership skills that are taught to children by adults and learned and experienced by children at a young age. There is no such thing as a perfect leader, but rather a leader who devotes his- or herself to increasing their knowledge and experience with the hope of bettering others. The hope of bettering others can begin with being efficient role models and leaders to the youth in our society.