Here in the United States, we value leadership skills greatly. Unfortunately, we don’t do as well as we could at encouraging young people to develop these skills and rewarding them for their efforts.
Colleges emphasize leadership, we read books and watch movies about leaders and job descriptions seek strong leaders, but, surprisingly, employers are still reporting gaps in leadership abilities. Of the approximately 100 skills surveyed in The Partnership for 32st Century Skills survey, leadership ranked in the top 10. But, leadership turns out to be the second largest skill deficit in recent college graduates with about 28% of graduates are described as “deficient”.
The reason leadership skills may still be lacking is likely because good leadership requires practice and there are very few opportunities for young people to practice leading. One reason it’s difficult to practice leadership is because, obviously, only one person can lead at a time, so it’s difficult to create opportunities for every young person to practice the skills. Another problem is that many people see leadership as an inherited trait rather than a set of learned skills.
But, we believe leading is more about acquiring specific skills than possessing inherent qualities. With this mindset, successful leaders are developed by honing specific skills through practice.
There are several great ways for young people develop leadership skills. Summer camp is one great place because young people can get training on leadership from camp professionals and can practice leading younger children. Success is rewarded with happy children working together and can also be rewarded at the end of the camp session with award plaques which remind young people of the progress they have made as leaders.
Other places young people can develop leadership skills include:
- Coaching a sports team of younger children
- Volunteering at a YMCA or Boys and Girls Club
- Teaching or assisting younger children at a place of worship
Note that an excellent way for teens to develop leadership skills is to work with younger children while observing older leaders and how they interact with the children.
Overall, any young person who wants to can develop his/her leadership skills. S/he should seek out opportunities to practice his/ehr skills and should be rewarded with praise, success and even award certificates to recognize developed skills.