Cultivating Leadership Skills in Teenagers

Cultivating Leadership Skills in Teenagers – A Guide to Raising our Future Leaders

“You are never too small to make a difference.”- Greta Thunberg 

Last week, I discussed developing leadership skills and leadership qualities in young children. This week, I want to talk to you about developing leadership skills and leadership qualities in teenagers and pre-teens. If you are raising teenagers or pre-teens or if you work with them in some capacity, you probably know that there is a lot going on in those teen brains! By now, your teen has had some real world experience with leadership models and leadership roles through their school, their family, their extracurricular activities, their jobs, and their day to day responsibilities. Some teens seem to naturally thrive in a leadership role. These are your team captains, your class presidents, your volunteers, etc. Then there are the teens who typically take a backseat when it comes to being in the spotlight. Maybe they struggle with communication skills, self-esteem, or self-confidence. Whatever the leadership level of your teen may be, I have some strategies that you as a parent or caregiver can use to help develop and strengthen your teen’s leadership skills which will boost their self-esteem and self-confidence and set them up for success! 

  1. Practice! Good public speakersdevelop their skills through practice and repetition. While there are many reputable resources worth checking out that give pointers on effective public speaking, there is just no better way to strengthen your public speaking skills than by speaking publicly. Even if your teen doesn’t have a public speaking class or isn’t involved in some activity that would require public speaking, you can help them by just engaging them in conversation. Perhaps at the dinner table or during a car ride, ask your teen what they think about an in-depth topic. This will allow your teen to practice analyzing a topic while putting their thoughts on that topic into words. Good leaders are good communicators and good communicatorsare confident in their words.
  2. Encourage setting goals. As your teengrows, they will begin to develop their own interests. What are some of the things your teen likes to do for fun? Perhaps they are into art or music or athletics. Whatever it is that your teen is into, encourage them to set small benchmarks or goals for themselves. For example, if your teen likes to play an instrument, suggest attempting one new song per week. If your teen likes to draw, suggest exploring a new medium. Just be sure that if you do present options, you are also encouraging your teen to choose their own objectives. Your teen will feel a sense of accomplishment when they are in control of their own objectives and take responsibility for achieving their own goals. This sense of accomplishment will be a great motivator for your teen!
  3. Encourage critical thinking. Your teen is now at an age where they will have their own opinions and thoughts on some very complex subjects but they may not always talk to you about them. But you can be sure they are talking to their friends and peers! Talk to your teen about things that require critical thought such as peer pressure, relationships, or public policy. You could even ask them to talk about their feelings related to their performance on a recent test which will help them evaluate their own performance and identify their strengths and weaknesses.  Movies, music, and television shows are great jumping off points to start a conversation with your teen regarding complex issues.
  4. Encourage leadership tasks. Delegation and motivation are skills much like public speaking. The best way to develop those skills is by actively participating in activities that require you to delegate responsibility and/or motivate others. Talk to your teen about engaging in some activities in which they will have an opportunity to take on a leadership role. These can be a simple activities like planning a family meal or more complex activities like finding a summer job. Encourage your child to take the initiative!
  5. Encourage organization. Organization is a great management skill. Everyone will have a slightly different preference or method for organization so the best way for your teen to figure out what works best for them is by allowing them to take on complex projects. For example, ask your teen to plan a family vacation where you set a budget and a deadline and let your teen do the rest! You may even suggest they start a small business or plan a charity event. The more complex projects your teen handles, the better their organizational skills will become. 

The teenage and pre-teen years can be difficult to navigate. Always keep the lines of communication open between you and your teen so they have the freedom to explore while  also having the support system in place should they need guidance. By encouraging your teen to get involved in activities that build and strengthen their leadership skills, you will set them up for success in all areas of their lives because they will be confident in themselves and in their abilities. 

If you have any questions or need additional guidance on ways to help your teen build leadership skills, please get in touch and I will share with you some additional resources and insights.

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