Charting the Course of Teaching and Learning in a Networked World
Developing Student Leadership
There’s no magic formula and/or pixie dust that we can develop young leaders…sorry. But, I do believe there are some intentional actions we can take to help teenagers better understand and follow the ways of leadership. Today I’ll share some of my thoughts on leadership.
You start benefiting from leadership skills at almost any age. Not only will you gain more self-esteem and interact more easily and effectively with your peers, and teachers, you can also make an impact on your community. These qualities will continue to develop and evolve as you grow up.
Many students admire leadership in others, but are hesitant to become leaders. Let me discuss why. Teenagers, like you people, are often susceptible to peer pressure, and worry about how others view you. Ninth grade is a “make or break year”. Many of you may try out negative behavior in order to fit in socially.
Managing self is associated with self-motivation, a “can-do” attitude, it is integral to self assessment. Students who manage themselves are enterprising, resourceful, reliable, and resilient. They establish personal goals, make plans, manage projects and set high standards. They have strategies for meeting challenges. They know when to lead, when to follow and when and how to act independently.
One important thing is you need to express yourselves. When you're able to clearly and confidently vocalize your thoughts, opinions and ideals, you feel more self-assured and able to deal with complex problems. Learning to speak assertively (strongly and confidently) is a cornerstone of leadership. Leadership requires being empathetic and socially involved, but still honoring personal morals, convictions, and standards. Students who are self-aware have a greater ability to lead.
An important FIRST STEP for a student is to broaden the definition of leadership. So often we fall into and follow the ways of the world that defines a leader in terms synonymous with extravert, influencer, charismatic, dynamic, good in front of crowds, etc… (you get the point). While I wouldn’t dismiss these as helpful qualities for any leader, I surely wouldn’t use them to limit the potential leaders within these modi operandi (ways). I think leadership should look different than the cute, fun and popular teenagers that are voted into most leadership positions at school.
People who are true leaders are not those who strive to be first, but those who are first to strive and who give their all for the success of the team. True leaders are first to see the need, envision the plan and empower the team for action. By the strength of the leader’s commitment, the power of the team is unleashed. A true leader has the confidence to make difficult decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others.
It is wonderful when the people believe in the leader… It is more wonderful when the leader believes in the people.
Student leaders go through a rigorous process of identification, development (training) and performance evaluation. The student leaders are also given numerous platforms to apply and hone the leadership skills learnt. Teacher mentors (class teachers, etc) are assigned to the different categories of student leaders to guide and develop the student leaders through regular interaction.
Children learn from adult example. Your juniors observe you, and internalize the behavior and values they see in you. Even if they don't express it aloud, children may be looking to you as a role model. Model leadership behavior by helping others, volunteering in leadership positions and taking initiatives in everyday life.