Teaching Leadership to High School Students

Instructor: Phoenix Uriela

Phoenix has taught college Developmental Psychology and has a master's degree in education.

It takes a certain skillset to be an effective leader. Discover what types of skills a leader needs and how to develop these skills in high school students.

To Lead or Follow?

What does it take to lead others? Most people imagine a leader as someone able to stand before others and tell them what to do. However, leadership involves much more than giving commands and making decisions. It also involves understanding what it feels like to be the one having decisions made for them.

People of different personalities may jump at the chance to lead or run away from this role. Whether a person prefers to lead or follow, everyone must understand how to perform both roles to be successful. High school students have lots of experience as followers given their youth and the leadership roles of the adults in their lives. As they mature, they need more chance to lead and to develop the leadership skills they will need in society.

Defining Leadership

Different societies have different standards for what it means to be a leader. For example, where one society prefers a leader with a domineering personality, another society may value one who is compassionate. However, what it means to be a leader involves core qualities that can be applied to a leader within any society. Leadership is the ability to guide or direct others in response to a group's needs and goals. This involves both personal and interpersonal skills that are essential for guiding others and uniting individuals as a team.

Types of Leadership Skills

A leader must develop many skills to be an effective guide, including:

  • Social skills
  • Reasoning skills
  • Self-development skills

Having social skills as a leader includes listening, understanding others' needs or views, and valuing their input. Social skills also involves being able to motivate and persuade others. As a leader, you must also communicate effectively and be willing to make decisions that affect a group. Leaders need these social skills to gain agreement and cooperation, not necessarily to become friends with all group members.

Reasoning skills involve establishing goals and planning strategies that move you and your team closer to achieving those goals. You must also be able to delegate or assign tasks appropriately to others and adapt to unexpected situations.

The self-development skills essential for a leader are confidence, self-awareness, integrity, and commitment. For example, leaders must believe in themselves and what they stand for. They must also understand their personal goals, strengths, and weaknesses and remain committed to the beliefs and actions they represent.

The Importance of Learning Leadership Skills

Developing leadership skills is necessary to meet group needs and achieve group goals. If a person does not possess the needed skills to lead others, then group unity may weaken. For example, if a leader cannot mediate group disagreements and persuade others to unite for a joint cause, then conflicts can occur among group members. Likewise, if leaders fail to follow through with a goal and don't have the self-confidence or integrity to keep their word, then followers' support is likely to decrease. Understanding diverse perceptions is also essential for a leader to gain support from people with different ideas and backgrounds.

Learning these skills in high school provides the opportunity for young leaders to develop these types of skills early enough to establish good leadership habits for the present and future. For example, if high school students have practiced making decisions, motivating others, and planning a strategy to achieve a goal, then they are more likely to effectively do so as an adult.

Ways to Build Leadership Skills in High School Students

There are many ways that a high school student can build leadership skills. Some of these methods include:

  • Role-playing activities
  • Group exercises
  • Self-development exercises

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