Tuesday, October 19

Teaching Your Students to be Good Leaders


Is your child a strong leader? Do you suspect that he or she might grow up to be an effective and proactive leader? Or maybe you aren't sure what to look for. Still others might wonder why bother - does it matter if you discover leadership abilities early? 

Some sources say it does matter. Observing leadership qualities early means parents, teachers and caregivers can work to develop those talents so they do not fall by the wayside.  If you want to make sure you develop your child's leadership qualities, here are some signs to watch for. Some of them may surprise you!

Signs of Potential Leadership

·         Talkative

o   Does it sometimes drive you crazy that your child talks so much? Actually, being talkative may be a sign of things to come. A chatty nature indicates a child with excellent verbal skills, which are important for good leaders. Did your child talk early and proficiently? This may be a sign that he or she will be a good leader.

·         Treats Others with Respect

o   If you notice that your child seems to end up in responsible positions - team captain, for instance, or band director - and you know he didn't get that position because of "muscling" his way to the top or bullying others, then this may be a sign of leadership ability. Notice if your child seems to have others "gravitate" toward her and wish to emulate her. Take note as to whether or not this is due to respectful treatment. If it is, you may have a strong leader on your hands.

·         Sees Both Sides

o   Some kids exhibit an ability to understand both sides of an issue. They tend to be peace keepers, helping two arguing kids to see reason, for instance.

·         In the Know

o   Does your child always know what's going on? Is he or she always aware of the latest happening at school or in the family? This is not the same as being a gossip (that's not a good leadership quality), but it does mean that he or she is paying attention and interested in what's going on with others.

·         Inquisitive

o   A good leader is not afraid to ask questions, but he/she is not afraid to go looking for answers on his own, either. Too much questioning may indicate self-doubt - your child is always trying to make sure about things - but healthy questions that spring from a true desire to know more about something may be a sign of leadership ability.


Tips for Teaching Young Adults to be Leaders

Leadership skills are important for all kinds of successes in life, from employment to relationships.  The general consensus is that such skills are lacking among adults and young people. Whether you have youth and young adults in your home or otherwise under your supervision, you can invest in their futures by teaching them how to be leaders.

·         Give Them Responsibility

o   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.


·         Get a Job

o   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

o   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

o   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.


Tips for Teaching Young Children to be Leaders

·         Independent Thinking

o   Help your child break out of the "cookie cutter" mentality by teaching him/her to think independently. Ask your kids' opinions on things, and refrain from judging or expressing your opinion. Just listen so that no opinion is "wrong." You might share your own opinion respectfully, and if it differs, all the better - part of independent thinking is hearing several sides of an issue and coming to your own conclusions.

·         Responsibility

o   Age-appropriate responsibilities are important skills for building leadership. Give your child responsibilities as early as you can, and have him deal with the consequences if those responsibilities are not carried out. Of course, your child needs guidance; but once your explain what the consequences will be, sources say it's best to let them play out.

·         Fairness

o   Leaders need to be fair. Being too rigid and unbending is not a great way to teach your kids about fairness, but being too permissive isn't, either. Help them to understand what is fair and what isn't, and how sometimes being fair means being firm even when others are upset.

·         Negotiation

o   Have you thought about the importance of negotiation skills in leadership? Think about it: government leaders, particularly the president, need to be well-versed in the art of negotiation. So it's okay to discuss your child's wants and desires - ask him to present a convincing argument as to why he thinks he should have whatever it is, or participate in an activity. And sources agree that it's okay for a parent to allow him/herself to be "talked into" something now and then!

·         Organization

o   Being organized is key to good leadership. Teach your children how to prioritize tasks and organize their time. Show them how to use calendars to keep things straight, and explain how time is organized by prioritizing tasks.

o   In the category of organization is also the concept of making lists. Have your kids make lists of what tasks they plan to complete each day and/or week. This also helps break tasks down into steps - maybe your child has a research paper due three weeks from now. Helping your child break that down into weekly and daily steps can be very helpful - not only in accomplishing the completing of the paper, but also in instilling the leadership skill of organization.

·         Communication

o   This is essential for leadership. Leaders must express their goals and their vision for whatever project or task they are leading. They can't expect others to read their minds! Teach your kids good communication and listening skills by encouraging them to share their thoughts even if you disagree, and by actively listening yourself.


Create a Home Environment That Instills Leadership in Kids

There are all sorts of things you can do to build a home environment that fosters leadership. Don't be afraid to be creative, and remember to include your kids and give them age-appropriate responsibilities.

·         Have a Routine

o   You may think that having a routine is creating followers by telling them what to do and when to do it. But actually, having a routine is purported to encourage leadership, because it provides security and a model of order and predictability. A good leader is not fickle - he or she is self-controlled and fairly predictable, so that those who are followers are certain of where they're going.

o   Routines also teach organization, another important leadership skill. Organizing time is crucial if your kids are going to grow up to inspire others to follow. Include your kids in the development of your schedule and calendar, and show them how time is organized and tasks and activities are prioritized.

 Clear Boundaries

o   As leaders, your kids will need to be able to define and enforce boundaries. Having clear boundaries in your home helps make expectations clear and lets your kids know how far they can go before they cross over. They will learn how to be fair and firm when boundaries are crossed, especially if you take care to consider the situation before enacting consequences. Not all boundary violations are the same, in other words.

o   To be good leaders, kids need to learn when to be firm (such as when a boundary is blatantly ignored) and when to be lenient (such as when a boundary is crossed accidentally). Including your kids when you develop boundaries and consequences is another way to create a leader-building environment.


·         Appreciate

o   When your kids do a job well, let them know. Give them positive feedback so they will learn how to give it themselves when they grow up to be leaders. A good leader knows when to pat followers on the back and appreciate their efforts.


·         Chores

o   Yes, having chore lists is something that parents may dread, or they may have heard about it and just don't think it will "fly" in their family. But chores are one of the first ways that kids learn to be a part of the family "team," and being part of a team is an important way to learn leadership.

o   Chores can be delegated depending on age and ability, and you can certainly include your kids in making the chore list. To keep motivation, have rewards for chores that are done well and on time. In fact, chores can be a way to earn privileges - your chore list can have two columns, one for chores and one for the privileges each chore earns.


·         Teach Them to Think

o   Some sources point out that the school system, public and private, teaches kids what to think rather than how to think. Of course, there are probably exceptions to this - special schools and special teachers - but it's entirely possible that your kids are not being taught how to think. So whether you homeschool or have your kids in public school, you might try some of these exercises to help your kids think on their own.

o   Give them an age-appropriate reading assignment that expresses a particular point of view. An opinion piece in the newspaper is a good place to start. Ask what your child thinks about it, and have him or her write an age-appropriate response to the piece. Do the same thing with an article that expresses the opposite or a different view.

§  Encourage them to read work that covers a range of opinions and views.

§  Ask them if they agree or disagree, and why.

§  Any time your child reads something, ask him (or her) what he thinks about it. Find out what he gleaned from the reading rather than finding out if he picked up what she was "supposed to" from the reading.

o   Leaders tend to be independent thinkers, so these exercises may go a long way toward teaching your child to be a good leader.


·         Teach Organization

o   This may be something of a challenge for parents who aren't that organized to begin with! And for those parents who are very organized, you might find that you just organize everything for your kids without teaching them to do it themselves. So finding a balance is a good idea.

o   Try giving them a calendar and show them how to keep track of their own activities. Chore lists are also a good way to help them organize their time. Age-appropriate chores and activities, written on a calendar, can help kids "see" their time and how it's being spent, even if they are too young to tell time yet.


·         Ask for Arguments

o   Okay, that may sound like something parents don't want to do. But the art of arguing respectfully is an important leadership quality. We're not talking about angry arguments; it's more about negotiation and persuasion. Ask your child to tell you why he (she) wants a certain thing, or why he should be allowed to attend an event or participate in an activity. This helps your children learn how to analyze and present an argument (which is really a list of reasons) to achieve a goal.


Leading Children & Teens

Whether you are working with children who are yours, or you're a caretaker for others' children, learning how to lead them effectively is important. But how do you become a good leader for kids? It can be hard to know if you're not accustomed to it, or if you didn't have strong leaders when you were a child.


·         Set an Example

o   You've probably heard "lead by example," but that means more than just doing something and hoping your kids will notice and copy your behavior. It also means being deliberate in setting an example, and you'll need to refrain from certain behaviors and watch what you say.

o   For instance, if you want your children to be patient with others - a key leadership attribute - then take care that you're patient with them. If you want your children to be able to make decisions like a leader, then make sure you're not making all of their decisions for them. To lead by example, you need to think about more than just living out healthy, positive lifestyle choices (although that's important, too). It's also a matter of setting an example of how to treat others. 


·         Include Them

o   Whether you are a teacher or a parent, including the children in your care is important to instill leadership. How do you include them? For one thing, let them help. In the classroom, this might take the form of collecting papers and passing out other papers. Students might be allowed to write an assignment on the board. At home, let your kids be a part of your daily routine, helping you wash the car and clean the house. After all, these are life skills, and those are vital for good leadership.


·         Delegate

o   Good leaders know how to delegate responsibilities and tasks. In your home or classroom, give kids various responsibilities. You can set things up so that the children in your care have a task to complete, and they have to delegate tasks to others to get it done. Or simply explain the task, and give a job to each child to get it done. They will see the value of delegating (you might want to point out that you can't do this task alone), but they will also have the satisfaction of helping get something done.


·         Allow Them to Help Others

o   Wherever you can, let your kids help each other without being bossy. In fact, being bossy is not necessarily a good leadership skill. Teach them how to help others in an appropriate way, and then set up a scenario where that help can happen. This works in the classroom or at home with friends and/or siblings.


·         The Right Attitude

o   With teens, it's important to respect their place in the leadership process. (This is important with all ages, but teens are more aware of their own independence.) So remember that you can't be a leader without followers! The teens have to be there for the leadership to happen.


·         Respect

o   As noted above, respecting those you lead is important. Teens may not respond well to just being given orders; it's more than that. One way you can show your respect to the youths in your charge is to listen to them. Really hear them, and respond respectfully to what they say. This not only shows your respect for them; it also sets a respectful tone in your group, and in so doing you're leading by example.


·         Insist on Respectful Behavior

o   Because you're modeling it, this shouldn't be too hard to enforce. Ask that your teens treat each other with respect, and you can cite yourself as an example.


·         Be "Real"

o   Teens have a pretty good sense of when something or someone is faking it. The teens in your charge are not looking for perfection; they would much rather connect with someone whose flaws they can identify with than someone distant and aloof. That said, it's important to guard against hypocrisy - for example, it's okay to be real and share that you used to be a smoker while advocating that your teens not smoke; but if you are still smoking, your words will ring hollow.


·         The Importance of a Good Relationship

o   Leading teens means assuming the role of a mentor. Mentoring means setting up an environment where learning takes place, and being available for teaching and answering questions. In an effective leadership relationship with teens, it's important to know when to step off and let the teen try on his or her own and when to step in. If you have a good relationship with your teens, then you will likely know them well enough to discern when to get involved and when to back off.

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