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Strategies for Building Leadership Skills in Children

Beth D. Johnson, Interim Head of School at Friends' Central School, shares how parents can help their children begin flexing and growing leadership skills from an early age.

It is often claimed that “great leaders are born, not made.” However catchy the phrase may be, the simple fact remains that it is wrong. Leadership requires skills and qualities that can be learned and nourished. Independent research has demonstrated the possibility of “growing” leaders time and time again.

 

By giving students numerous opportunities to demonstrate leadership, and by ensuring they are involved in a community that values and promotes leadership, parents can help their children begin flexing and growing leadership skills from an early age.

 

Below is a look at some of the most important qualities common to great leaders and a number of strategies parents can use to begin building toward them in their children.

 

Leadership Qualities for Kids

According to Warren Bennis, a leading academic and pioneer, leadership is the capacity to translate vision into action. This is no small feat – according to Bennis, leaders share key characteristics, such vision and passion, an ability to inspire others, integrity, curiosity, and a willingness to take risks. But these characteristics are not enough, leaders have to back them up with foundational skills.

 

For example, an important skill which aligns with all of these character traits is to be a good listener. By becoming a good listener and being patient enough to hear people out, an individual will be able to hear not just what is being said in words, but beyond those words as well: Who that person is, what they bring to the conversation, and what their experience has been in life. This understanding empowers a leader to challenge their own preconceptions, show empathy, and otherwise create a collaborative environment that is necessary in many situations.

 

Another part of being a great leader is knowing which questions to ask to get at the root of a challenge and identify a possible solution. What great questions do you have to understand and what great questions do you have to solve to propel a vision forward?

 

While these may sound like very complicated subjects, each is something which can be fostered in children from their earliest years. The sooner a child begins to practice their leadership skills—listening, curiosity, consensus building, etc.—the better able they will be to hone their skills further as they grow.

 

 

Cultivating Leadership in Children

1.Value all voices.

By teaching children to value the voice of everyone they meet and interact with, you are laying an important foundation upon which other leadership skills, such as listening and empathy, can be built. The most effective way of teaching this to children is to demonstrate it in your everyday actions.

 

Likewise, enrolling your child in a school which prioritizes equity and the value of individuals can be highly impactful. At Friends’ Central, our educational philosophy is informed by and guided by Quaker values. One of the most important of those values is the idea that every single person is valued and important.

 

2. Value your child’s voice.

Listening deeply to your child and allowing them to bring ideas and opinions into your home life encourages future leadership. Listening to children with respect and consideration nurtures the confidence they need to express their curiosity and propose their own ideas. This key is modeling what you are asking your child to do – listening with respect. It does not mean your children are in charge!

 

3. Encourage them to get involved in activities outside of school.
Though it is important for students to be engaged and passionate about their education, it is also important for them to explore other parts of life.

 

By encouraging your child to get involved through community service, for example, it is possible to show them that they have the agency to make a difference to better the lives of others. Similarly, encouraging your child to explore their passions through clubs or other extracurricular activities provides them with ample opportunities to interact with others, develop empathy, and otherwise exhibit leadership.

 

 

Simply put, in order to allow our children to practice their leadership skills, we need to provide them with the opportunity to be leaders. The more active they are in different parts of their lives, the more of these opportunities there will be.Though it is important for students to be engaged and passionate about their education, it is also important for them to explore other parts of life.

 

By encouraging your child to get involved through community service, for example, it is possible to show them that they have the agency to make a difference to better the lives of others. Similarly, encouraging your child to explore their passions through clubs or other extracurricular activities provides them with ample opportunities to interact with others, develop empathy, and otherwise exhibit leadership.

 

4. Acknowledge small acts of leadership.
There is a common misconception that leaders, by nature, must hold leadership roles, for example by being class president or captain of a sports team. It is important to note, however, that a leader is not made by holding a title. There are many students who might not take on traditional leadership positions in the school or in their activities outside of the classroom—but that doesn’t mean they’re not leaders.

 

For example, a student might be a leader in the classroom by helping to move a discussion forward. They can show leadership on the field by rallying their team after a hard loss, even if they are not a captain. They can show leadership in the community simply by standing up for what they believe in or demonstrating empathy toward a friend or stranger undergoing hardship.

 

In whatever way your child shows leadership, it’s important to acknowledge the act. The smallest encouragement can go much farther than many realize.

 

Fostering Leadership in All Age Groups

At Friends’ Central, we believe that our students will be leaders in their community and the world beyond. This ethos is an integral part of our educational philosophy, influencing everything from our curriculum to service learning requirements and everything in between. By encouraging leadership in children in their earliest days, we truly believe that we arm them with the skills they need to become successful leaders throughout their lives.

 

At FCS, We Go Further.

Learn more at one of our many fall Open House events, including tours tailored to your child’s interests

 

Lower School Open Houses:

  • Virtual Open House (Nursery-Gr. 5) on October 4 at 9:30 am
  • Admissions Tours (Nursery-Gr. 5) on October 9 and October 10
  • Virtual Open House (Nursery-Gr. 5) on October 27 at 5:30 pm

 

Middle & Upper School Open Houses:

  • Open House (Grs. 6-12) on September 30 at 4:00 pm, 1101 City Avenue, Wynnewood, PA
  • Open House (Grs. 6-12) on October 6 at 9:00 am, 1101 City Avenue, Wynnewood, PA
  • Open House (Grs. 6-12) on October 27 at 9:00 am, 1101 City Avenue, Wynnewood, PA

 

 

Click here to register for an Open House.

 

Friends’ Central School supports the Main Line Parent Community.

Friends’ Central School is a coeducational, college-preparatory, Quaker school offering an outstanding independent school education to students in nursery through grade 12. Located on 41 acres across two campuses in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, Friends’ Central cultivates the intellectual, spiritual, and ethical promise of students. In every grade, students are encouraged to think for themselves and to find the courage to voice their opinions while understanding the importance of respectfully agreeing and disagreeing with one another in their quest for discovery. The results of a Friends’ Central education are lifelong. Our graduates pursue their passions at top colleges and universities. Alumni/ae report that they are well prepared to excel academically, to lead, and to problem solve. And, when Friends’ Central alumni/ae graduate into the world, they are simply extraordinary.

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