Ask a group of teenagers what they want to be when they’re older and you’re likely to get just as many if not more nurses, teachers and chefs as business owners, politicians or presidents. According to Elisebeth VanderWeil, the Director of Organizational Leadership at Mountain State University, possessing leadership skills are important for everyone regardless of future plans and aspirations. Leadership skills must be nurtured over time, and you can help your teen achieve them.
What are Leadership Skills and Why are They Important?
Leadership skills include traits like emotional stability, dominance, self-assurance, boldness, intuitiveness, charisma, empathy and enthusiasm. For young people who aspire to hold highly coveted leadership positions in politics or management, these traits are non-negotiable. However, VanderWeil points out that these skills are just as important for those who traditionally consider themselves followers. Skills like the ones listed above aid productivity in any situation. Additionally, possessing these skills strengthens the ability to see great leadership in others, enabling teens to make better choices when choosing peers, mentors and future employers.
National Youth Programs and Organizations
One way for children and teens to work on developing their leadership skills is by joining with national youth programs and organizations such as Boy Scouts of America (scouting.org), Girl Scouts of America (girlscouts.org) or 4-H (4-h.org). Scouting helps kids to learn skills like community responsibility, teamwork, initiative and self-esteem. With 4-H, youth are responsible for choosing and executing their own projects, providing the opportunity for them to explore and make their own place in the world. A longitudinal study conducted by the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University found that students who are involved in 4-H are twice as likely to get better grades, twice as likely to choose to go to college and 41 percent less likely to engage in risky behaviors like drugs and alcohol. Additionally, many schools offer participation in youth entrepreneurship programs such as DECA (deca.org) and Junior Achievement (ja.org). These organizations teach teens the ins and outs of business, personal responsibility and even personal finance skills.
Seek out personal- and career-based mentorship. Mentorship is a relationship where a young person is personally guided and offered aid in achieving goals by way of the support and friendship of an older or more experienced person. It can be personal, spiritual or career focused. Contact businesses and organizations that are based on your teen’s interest and ask if they have a youth mentorship program or if anyone there is interested in mentoring young people. Additionally, organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs of America (bgca.org) and Americorps (americorps.gov) may provide help with finding a mentor.
Studying abroad is another way to develop leadership skills. While studying abroad or participating in an exchange program, teens will be immersed in another culture. They will gain skills like self-confidence and empathy and have the opportunity to become fluent in another language. Gaining skills such as these improve the chances of getting into a choice college and landing a good job, according to KidsHealth.