As a mother of three and a member of the ConvergenceCoaching team, the topic of leadership always seems to work its way into my conversations. It got me thinking, “What is our responsibility as leaders, parents or mentors to ensure that we are doing what it takes to mold future leaders?”
I believe leadership is a combination of inherent and learned traits. Sure, some people come into this world as natural-born leaders, but some of us have the qualities and just need some guidance to master the craft of leadership.
My 11 year old son recently wrote the following prior to attending the Junior National Young Leaders Conference (http://www.cylc.org/jrnylc/index.cfm) in Washington, D.C.;
“To me, leadership is a gift that you grow into. It is knowing what to do in a bad situation and how to change it. It is being able to lead even when it is considered impossible. Leadership is not something you can buy, it is a quality that we all have in our own way.”
While I was proud of his interpretation of leadership, I was also hopeful that this great country of ours can, and will, continue to produce great leaders. While attending JrNYLC, he spent the week with children from all over the country and they toured Washington D.C., learning about the six key leadership traits found in great leaders throughout American history:
- Goal Setting
- Problem Solving
Children were represented from all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds and were able to share their unique leadership experiences. While JrNYLC is a great program, and is highly recommended, there are so many things we can do as leaders, mentors and parents to ensure that we are molding leaders for the future. I believe one of the most important things we can do as a community is to encourage young people to volunteer. To teach our young people to volunteer, we must also model the behavior of giving back. Volunteering is a great learning experience and requires us to come together and give back. You can research volunteer opportunities further by visiting one of the following websites:
USA Freedom Corps Kids
USA Freedom Corps is an office of the White House that was developed to help expand volunteer service around the United States.
VolunteerMatch is a leader in the non-profit world dedicated to helping everyone find a great place to volunteer.
One way to spark a leadership conversation with a young person is to ask “Who do you admire as a leader and why?” Or encourage a young adult to read one of the following books: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes, or Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt. Read them yourself, too, and then engage in a conversation about what you each “got” from the read.
Engagement with our children, and all young people, is the key. We cannot succumb to the pressure of our over-scheduled lives, and rely on the electronic medium to serve as our primary communication vehicles with the young. Leadership traits can be learned, but they require a hands-on approach; conversations, questions, and guidance, based on our first-hand experience. These things can, and do, make a difference in shaping the next generation.
We, as a community and a nation, must lead by example to ensure the ongoing success of our nation, generation after generation. Let us know what young people in your community are doing to hone their leadership skills – we’d love to hear!