5 Leadership Lessons: What You Need to Know about Developing Teen Leadership
Dan Appleman has written a handbook for developing teen leadership. Based on over 20 years of real world experience, you will find ideas, techniques, examples and even sample statements to guide you. Developing Teen Leadership will not only help you develop leadership skills in yourself and others, but you will find ways to help teens help other teens on their leadership journey.
The challenge for most parents, teachers and teen advisors is first understanding what they believe about leadership. If we think leadership is telling people what to do, it is difficult to guide their understanding of what real leadership is. They learn best by example.
Appleman offers over 50 valuable thoughts that impact your effectiveness with teens. Here are just five:
Explore options, but leave the decision to them. As a youth advisor, it’s not your job to make things easy on the teens. On the contrary—since people learn from challenges, it is perfectly fine for you to challenge them. One of the best ways to do this is to help them see facets of problems and options that they may not have otherwise considered.
Listen. The fact that many teens are unwilling to talk to adults is not all, even mostly, their fault. The truth is that most adults are just terrible at listening (both to each other, and to teens and kids). So if you want to have the slightest hope of being heard, your first step is to learn how to listen effectively.
Don’t be the boss. When people think about leadership, they often think of authority. It’s easy to confuse the two. While exercising authority is a leadership skill, real leadership does not consist of telling people what to do. [Being bossy will get people to participate,] but that participation will usually be less than enthusiastic. The members of the group will tend to wait for instructions rather than take the initiative. And the boss will spend all their time running around, stressing out, and telling people what to do. Teaching teen leaders the difference between a leader and a boss will be an ongoing task.
Find ways to say yes. Teens and kids hear the word “no” all the time. It’s no wonder many stop asking. The reality is that teens are generally capable of far more than they are ever expected or allowed to do. Part of teaching leadership is to get teens to realize that they are capable of becoming leaders and accomplishing tasks. One of the best things you can do to encourage this is to, as much as possible, eliminate the word “no” from your vocabulary. Except for health and safety and rules issues, the answer should always be some variation of the word yes.
This is not a book about teens. It is a book about how we as adults relate to teens. Because the only tool we have to teach leadership skills (or anything) to teens is the control we have over our own actions. You can spend hours worrying about what the teens are doing or their attitude, but we can only control the things we do and our own attitude.
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