Should the young be taught leadership?

relationshipI was heartened to read Jack Zenger’s HBR article ‘We Wait Too Long to Train Our Leaders’ as it echoes much of my own perspectives and beliefs.

I shared these in my blog ‘Everyday leadership’ where I posed a few questions around leadership becoming more mainstream, leadership in our everyday daily actions and introducing leadership in schools.

Leadership exists in every aspect of our daily lives through our relationships with others, how we interact, how we communicate, our response to situations, our behaviours and beliefs…Each of us has abundant opportunities 24/7 to demonstrate, practice and build on them.

If these opportunities exist why is it that they are not being taken advantaged of?

I wonder if this is about a lack of understanding and awareness or does the word ‘leadership’ have connotations which seem beyond everyday reach?

For me, the most obvious way for young people to learn about leadership is to see it being role modelled – in their homes, schools, clubs, in the public arena… Young children learn from the actions and behaviours of those around them.

How do ‘people’ learn and develop leadership behaviours and whose responsibility is it? Individuals parents, teachers, employers, government…?

As an individual and parent I believe that we should each take responsibility for the behaviours that we role model to those around us. While some of us may consciously choose to do this, for others it may not be something that they are even aware of.

Which poses the question ‘How do you raise this awareness ’?
To gain widespread awareness and change will require collaborative effort and large scale campaigns such as the Change4Life campaign, to name but a few things. And perhaps less Britain’s got Talent and more ‘Britain’s got Leadership’!

If leadership was on the curriculum in schools, how would it be taught? Discussing and highlighting theories and concepts are useful but limited unless students are given opportunities to put them to the test and practice them. Leadership is very much a journey and thus needs continuous practice.
Teachers will also need to reinforce such leadership behaviours. They can only do this if they themselves have gone through or are going through that leadership journey.

This goes back in full circle to my perspective of everyday leadership and at all levels – its courses through the entire organisation – be it a home, community,school, small business, large organisation or country!

Would love to hear your thoughts and perspectives on this? Do you think leadership should be taught in schools? Do you consciously demonstrate leadership at home?

Image by creativedoxfoto at FreeDigitalPhotos

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VeraIMG_0722 cropVera is a professional coach (MA in Coaching & Mentoring) helping you to progress, make successful changes, be a more effective leader and communicator, improve your performance and team working. She specialises in working with leaders, teams and women through a blended approach of individual and team coaching, training, facilitation and action learning


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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5 Responses to Should the young be taught leadership?

  1. Lorraine says:

    Hi Vera, this is a great post and a really important area to focus on.

    Developing leadership potential in our children is essential – it engenders skills such as decision making, being a visionary, judgement, and much more. Good leaders attract others prepared to follow them by good judgement, sound interpersonal skills, and the courage and conviction to put seeking value above the pressure to conform.

    There are many ways in which parents and guardians can encourage leadership potential in our children and this is an area I cover in my ‘Enterprising Child’ book as it is part of developing entrepreneurial potential in our children. In the 11-14 years section we look at the issues children have as they enter their teens and the pressure from peers to fit in and conform. Encouraging dialogue with your child, helping them to manage their time, doing role play about new social situations, and much more can all help, and in the home where our children are (or should be) most authentically themselves, there is no better place.

    • verawoodhead says:

      Hi Lorraine, thank you for sharing your valuable insights. Absolutely agree with what you have said especially ‘encouraging dialogue’ as this is so crucial is sharing and understanding each other perspectives. Will definitely check out your book.

  2. Hi Vera –
    Your article speaks directly to what I feel is my true purpose. I have worked in education for the past 10 years doing service and leadership learning with high school students. I have watched hundreds of leaders develop right in front of my eyes. I strongly believe that empowering students in the area of community service helps to develop leadership skills. I have watched young people create projects that reach out to the homeless, those with special needs, children, the elderly. As they begin to find their purpose, develop their talents, and engage with others that are different than them, they develop the emotional intelligence and a deep maturity that elicits natural leadership. They learn how to build teams, gain participation, raise funds, organize events, and more. I am so passionate about taking all of the models of leadership training I have tried out with my students, that I am currently studying Social and Organizational Psychology at Columbia University (Teacher’s College). It is my goal to encourage, create, and consult schools that leadership must be taught in our schools as a separate and distinct entity. Sure, it cannot be quantified on some state test, but find me anyone who would argue with the fact that we need better human beings who can lead and inspire others as much as we need those who are masters in their field of content knowledge.

    • verawoodhead says:

      Hi Stephanie, thank you for sharing your valuable insights and experience. How wonderful to have the opportunity, be a part of and to witness young people developing their leadership. Hope you have much success in getting leadership taught in schools. Would love to hear how you are progressing with this.

  3. Jo Royle says:

    I keep wondering if it’s more about ‘allowing’ than ‘teaching’ in terms of the new generation of leaders…

    Perhaps they’ve naturally got the qualities for everyday leadership but life, and we(?), create barriers, limiting beliefs, blockages that get in the way…

    If we’re not careful, we contribute to the next generation of leaders learning
    • vulnerability is dangerous
    • ‘failure’ is bad
    • being authentically them isn’t acceptable
    • asking questions (especially why?) is annoying
    • should is more important than want
    • logic trumps intuition
    • every minute should be filled with activity and quiet time is wasted time
    and a whole load of other limiting beliefs!

    So I’m wondering if our role is about being aware of this so as to reduce the limiting beliefs we personally contribute to & also in helping the next generation to find ways of breaking down those limiting beliefs and fears that do appear as they journey through life…

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