Last updated on February 13th, 2024 at 01:26 pm

In the words of the self-improvement guru Simon Sinek, “Leadership is not about being in charge. It is about taking care of those in your charge.” This statement holds particularly true for the young people who will serve as the leaders of tomorrow. 

Read on for more information about youth leadership and its importance in schools today. 

Challenges Faced by Today’s Youth 

From the difficulties associated with bullying and peer pressure to the challenges that go hand in hand with drug and alcohol abuse, young people must run a gauntlet of dangerous obstacles on their way to happy and productive adult lives. According to the latest  National Center for Education Statistics figures, the United States had roughly 2 million high school dropouts in 2021. These statistics mean that 2 million Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 were neither enrolled in school nor held a high school diploma or equivalency credential. 

The Need for Strong Leadership 

With so many young people getting lost on their way to happy and productive adult lives, the need for impactful youth leadership is apparent. And this need applies to the term “youth leadership” in its broadest possible definition. In other words, kids can benefit from strong adult guidance or youth leaders. 

Young people with leadership aspirations can empower their classmates and prepare to influence coworkers and others in adulthood.  

Benefits of Developing Leadership Skills in High School 

High school students who hone strong leadership abilities will likely develop enhanced characteristics such as:

  • Levels of self-confidence and self-awareness
  • Levels of emotional intelligence
  • Public speaking and basic communication skills
  • Active listening skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Problem-solving skills 

Leadership Activities for High School Students 

Just as an aspiring bodybuilder must engage in weight training, aspiring leaders must engage in leadership exercises. With this in mind, here are a few places where you can source essential leadership activities for teens: 

  • School clubs
  • Student government
  • Peer mentoring programs
  • Community service projects and volunteer opportunities
  • Sports and extracurricular activities
  • Internships and job opportunities
  • Youth leadership conferences 

How Teens Shape Their Communities 

Whether completing projects through scouting or volunteering to serve those in need, young people can make a real difference in their local communities. From Malala Yousafzai to Greta Thunberg, many examples of young leaders have taken their regional service and activism to the national and even international levels. 

Empowering Teens to Be Change Makers 

Despite their relatively limited resources and dependence on authority figures, kids need the autonomy and freedom of choice that efficient leadership demands. Independence and the ability to choose for themselves means kids must also learn the basics of accountability. Because every life decision contributes to either a beneficial or a detrimental outcome, understanding and accepting responsibility for one’s own decisions at an early age is vital.

The Role of Middle School Students in Leadership Development 

When building a foundation for future success, nurturing leadership in kids of all ages is tremendously beneficial. By middle school, some students will inevitably emerge as strong leaders among their peers. To positively guide leadership development in children, the Today Parenting Team suggests “practicing gratitude, providing constructive feedback, and surrounding children with positive influences can contribute to their growth as leaders.” Encouraging positivity and constructive feedback in middle school can improve their leadership skills and prepare them for success through high school and beyond.

Leadership Activities for Middle School Students 

Most leadership activities available to high school students are also available to middle school students. Because teens can generally handle more responsibility than pre-teens, it may be advisable for middle school students to place a more concerted emphasis on concepts related to teamwork and team building. For these reasons, here are a few ways to promote leadership skills for the pre-teen and early teenagers: 

  • Team-building exercises and group projects
  • School clubs and student government
  • Leadership camps and workshops
  • Creative problem-solving activities 

The Impact of Role Models 

Positive role models can make a real impact on young people. The youth development and mentorship organization Roots of Action contends, “By far, the greatest attribute of a positive role model is the ability to inspire others.” Beyond honing this quality, aspiring role models should live by a clear set of principles, value community concerns over their own, practice a radical acceptance of others, and possess a strong ability to overcome obstacles. Because most people strive to instill these qualities in themselves, they will naturally admire and gravitate toward role models who demonstrate them.

Here are a few other things that you need to consider if you want to serve as a positive role model who can spark the fire of leadership in young people: 

Understanding the Needs of Students 

Like any worthwhile endeavor, your student leadership efforts are unlikely to succeed if you don’t set specific goals. Furthermore, even goals achieved might ultimately prove worthless if those goals do not focus on practical student needs. Use a combination of primary research (for example, speaking directly to students, parents, and fellow educators) and secondary research (e.g., reading peer-reviewed studies and the articles of youth leadership experts) to ensure you fully understand how to serve your students best. 

Effective Teaching Strategies 

Over the years, educators have developed a range of ways to impart and practice leadership skills in the classroom. The education sector resource provider Classcraft singles out group projects as an outstanding way to teach leadership skills holistically and comprehensively. Teachers can assign a project and designate a different student to lead each component. Their article states, “For example, one student could be the research leader, another the report leader, someone else the visual presentation leader, and so on. Each leader would be responsible for guiding the rest of the group in establishing a concrete goal and delegating certain responsibilities.” Conversely, teachers can designate a leader for each group of students and then rotate this leadership role over a series of projects, ensuring that every student in the class gets an opportunity to hold it. 

Creating a Positive and Inclusive Learning Environment 

Because self-confidence and self-assuredness are essential focuses of leadership development, a positive and supportive learning environment is an absolute must for instructors who want to build future leaders. Because leadership opportunities must be equally available to all, instructors strive to foster a fully inclusive learning environment. 

Fostering Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving 

As previously discussed, critical thinking and problem-solving skills are invaluable in any evolving leader. After all, leaders are often tasked with guiding decision-making for a group. According to Indeed, many group leaders contribute tips to help teachers build critical thinking and problem-solving skills in their students. These tips include asking open-ended questions, encouraging productive collaboration, allowing students autonomy, and providing practical tasks that relate to real-life scenarios. 

Leadership Development for Educators 

You can expand your capabilities as a classroom teacher or youth educator who prioritizes leadership training and preparedness. At Salem University, the  Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction postgraduate program can enhance the leadership goals you set for your students and the strategies you employ to reach them. Here are just a few ways that Salem University’s Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction program empowers educators to be influential leaders: 

  • Fostering strong mentorship skills
  • Aligning educational goals with leadership objectives
  • Advocating for educational reform and positive change
  • Cultivating empathy and emotional intelligence
  • Leading by example and inspiring student
  • Guiding students to set and achieve goals
  • Promoting a growth mindset and resilience in students 

The Ripple Effect of Youth Leadership in Society 

The Jazz Leadership Project presents a textbook example of “paying it forward” in Erica Ford’s Life Camp/Peacemobile initiative. Through her decades of dedication as a leader who provides “alternatives to picking up a gun,” Ford has touched the lives of many young people who might have otherwise succumbed to lives of violence and crime. And the “ripple effect” that Ford began is cause for even more celebration. 

Many young people who have benefited from Ford’s empowering work have gone on to empower others and make others’ lives better. For example, Jaytaun McMillan and Jaquil Johnston took what they learned in Ford’s Life Camp to establish the Dream Cafe as young adults. The Dream Cafe is committed to helping “community members heal from the inside out with quality food choices.” 

The Need for Youth Leadership in Today’s World 

If you want to inspire and guide the next generation of leaders, a Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction from Salem University can prove invaluable. After learning about what this degree offers, you can fill out a short form on the same page to request more information or begin the application process.

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