Help Kids become Leaders
- Monday, November 08, 2004
Leadership isn't just for those who are outgoing and charismatic. It isn't based on any personality type or tied to any age or background. Instead, it's a set of skills that everyone - including kids - can learn to help them succeed in all areas of life.
If you're a parent, grandparent, teacher, coach, or friend, you can help the kids you care about overcome common challenges and negative peer pressure to reach their fullest potential. You can help them become the leaders God wants them to be.
Here's how you can help kids become leaders:
• Start early. Realize that the most influential leadership training in a child's life comes from his or her parents at home. Let your kids know that they are a top priority in your life. When kids know you care, their confidence soars. Make time to be actively involved in their lives, attending their activities and talking with them regularly. Strive to be a good role model; live the kind of life you want your kids to emulate. Understand what your kids are passionate about, and what challenges they face. Help them extract leadership lessons from their challenges. Point out leadership in action to them as you go about your daily lives, discussing both positive and negative examples. Encourage your kids to get out of their comfort zones and take risks.
• Emphasize teamwork. Recognize that a leader must always work with a team, because leadership is the ability to achieve goals through people. Leaders don't focus just on their own effort, but on how to inspire and motivate a team to achieve goals.
• Motivate them. Help kids understand why they should want to do the hard work necessary to become leaders. Let them know that the rewards of leadership - like satisfaction, meaning, significance, confidence, and contributions to others - far outweigh the rewards of simply following. Show them that leadership is fun. Challenge them, but don't overwhelm them - take time to work with them at their own pace. Empower them to make their own decisions as they grow.
• Hold up a mirror to young leaders. Show kids that they have leadership abilities. Let them know you believe in them and expect great things from them. Listen to what they say about their interests, ambitions, and dreams. Give them opportunities to lead.
Look for the following traits in them, and affirm them when you spot them: good character (honesty, reliability, maturity, etc.), a boldness to speak up, an ability to come up with creative ideas, an ability to solve problems, courage to take a stand for what they believe, people skills, determination, passion, communication skills, an eagerness to listen and learn, perseverance, confidence, an inquiring mind, discipline (showing up early, etc.), calmness under pressure, an eagerness to work hard, mental toughness, a sense of humor, a readiness to take charge, an ability to follow directions and obey orders, an attitude of inclusiveness and cooperation, raw energy that can be diverted in healthy ways (such as a mischievous yet bright child who needs better outlets for his or her energy), a positive attitude, an ability to stand out for what matters most (earning admiration for good values, even if not in the popular crowd), and spiritual strengths.
Focus more on kids' character traits than you do on their personality traits. Strive to discover and point out their hidden talents and abilities. Encourage them to use those talents and skills through leadership.
• Help them see a vision. Define what success looks like. Imagine the possibilities. Encourage kids to dream big dreams, develop a game plan based on their dreams, take action, measure their progress, and celebrate small victories along the way. Keep the vision clear and simple. Make it powerful, visual, and easy to imagine. Focus the vision on change. Help kids communicate the vision with contagious optimism. Have the vision demand sacrifice and inspire awe.
• Help them communicate well. Nurture kids' confidence in their ability to speak effectively to others. Share these tips on public speaking: Be organized and prepared, keep it simple, prepare simple notes instead of a written script; relax, become a storyteller, practice your talk, be aware of the nonverbal component of your talk (your tone of voice, your gestures, etc.), arrive early, never apologize for being nervous, don't worry about a few mistakes, be aware of your audience's attention span, and take questions.
Tell kids that words have tremendous power to either lead or mislead people. Train them to use words wisely.
• Help them build good people skills. Develop these skills in the kids you care about: affirmation (the ability to give realistic acknowledgement and praise to team members), authority (the ability to determine procedures, assign duties, promote efficiency, oversee activities, take responsibility, and hold people accountable), coaching (the ability to think strategically, to oversee, and to teach), conflict resolution (the ability to intervene in clashes, mediate disagreements, solve interpersonal problems, and unify the team), counseling (the ability to listen with empathy and help people), delegating (the ability to entrust responsibility and authority to others on the team), facilitating (the ability to manage the interaction and dialogue in a group), fairness (the ability to hear complaints and resolve them courteously, tactfully, justly, and impartially), hospitality (the ability to entertain guests to further the team's goals and enhance its unity and spirit), motivation (the ability to encourage and inspire people to achieve their best performance), negotiating (the ability to exchange information, opinions, ideas, and things of value to reach a mutually beneficial conclusion or decision), organization (the ability to plan and arrange events), persuasion (the ability to influence others to accept the team's perspective), recruitment (the ability to attract and acquire the best people for the team), sociability (the ability to meet and converse with strangers in a relaxed and friendly way), and teaching (the ability to impart knowledge to others and train others in the kills they need to perform their tasks for the team).
Let kids know that it doesn't take much effort - sometimes just a positive word or a handshake - to change people's lives.
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