Leadership is a term that can be difficult to define, especially when we are reviewing our child’s activities in hopes of scholarships. It is important to understand that selective colleges no longer expect every student to be a leader, but many scholarships are looking for that specifically. Numerous colleges have presidential scholarships or other large awards that specifically seek out students with a good leadership record.
Thus, it becomes important to be able to differentiate what is leadership and what is not when we are evaluating our student’s resume. Leadership, at its core, is the act of guiding people, of moving a group in the same direction. It is a dynamic growth process that takes a vision and transforms it into reality.
Let’s look at some common teenage activities and how to categorize them.
Martial Arts – It is not leadership when your child participates in classes. It can become leadership if they become instructors or plan educational events for all the students in their group.
Music – It is not leadership when they play their violin for nursing home residents. It becomes leadership when they communicate often with administrators to plan programs and organize a sizable group of other musicians to play on a regular basis.
Community Service – It is not leadership when they volunteer for Operation Christmas Child. It becomes leadership when they are responsible for running an entire shift, when they go to various youth groups and speak to others in order to recruit more participants, when they work actively within their church to encourage families to join the cause.
Scouting or Civil Air Patrol – Some organizations have leadership development at their core. If our kids participate long enough, they will eventually learn something about leadership if they are trying at all. However, we cannot call it leadership when they participate in meetings or go to camp. It becomes leadership when they are elected to a position or teach classes or are responsible for a group of people.
Paid Employment – It is not leadership when our student flips hamburgers at our local fast food joint. It becomes leadership when they are promoted and become responsible for shift management or training.
Computer Science – It is not leadership when, in isolation, our teen fixes the computer system for a charity organization. It would be considered leadership if they teach computer literacy classes at the local library.
These are just a few examples of leadership within various organizations. Many of the kids I work with go completely outside the box and create leadership opportunities for themselves in areas they care about such as advocacy work for a particular disease, starting organizations where none exist or creating huge fundraising events to raise money for things they care about. Whether your child is a born leader or an extreme introvert, they will benefit from learning to lead. It is a skill that can be taught, an investment in their future. While leadership is a good thing to have in order to pursue college scholarships, it is the life-changing nature of leadership that makes it an important component of growing up.
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