Is learning to lead an achievable goal? Guest columnist Paige Maslin of the Army and Navy Academy believes so. In her second guest feature, Maslin details how the Army and Navy Academy of Carlsbad, CA is doing just that
As a nation, we place astonishing weight on the values that leadership skills instill, from confidence to focus, decisiveness to perseverance. We read books and watch movies about daring leaders, often idolizing individuals willing to take the lead.
Though most people respect the significance of leadership, they don't always teach it well. According to a study conducted by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, many respected employers listed "leadership skills" as a primary quality that many new hires lack, with 28% of graduates described as "deficient". So, if we respect and value leadership, why is there such a significant deficit? Perhaps the answer comes in the fact that leadership skills require practice, and it can be difficult to find opportunities where young men and teenagers can hone their talents.
Private boarding schools that focus on inspiring disciplined and determined behavior can be an ideal training ground for leadership skills. After all, according to psychologists, "leadership is a learned behavior". Though some people may seem as though they're born for the position, the truth is that the most effective way of encouraging leadership in any individual is by allowing him to explore the concept. Following are just some of the ways that young people can learn to lead and develop their leadership skills.
Step One: Teach Students What It Means To Be a Great Leader
Leadership may be a prized skill, but it's often one that can be hard to define and even harder to develop for young men. By helping students understand what leadership means to them, they can develop the skills that will serve them well during their school years, and indeed throughout the remainder of their lives. Below are just some of the most crucial qualities of a leader:
- Accountability: The best leaders take responsibility for the performance of everyone in their group, prompting them to check in on team members, follow up on outstanding issues, and monitor any changes in conduct. When achievements occur, leaders will offer praise; and when problems arise, they will know how to identify them, seek solutions, and encourage people to get back on track.
- Confidence: Confidence is rarely a trait that someone is born with, but it is essential for leaders. Confidence in a leader can help members of his team to feel more motivated, and when challenged, a confident leader can stick to his vision and remain focused.
- Focus: Extraordinary leaders know how to organize themselves, plan ahead, and discover solutions for scenarios before they have even happened. Because of this ability to develop strategies and tactics, a great leader can prepare for almost anything.
- Decisiveness: Making tough decisions is a primary part of being a good leader. This means that leaders must be adept at analyzing situations and making difficult and timely choices that meet the best interests of everyone within the group, not just themselves.
Step Two: Introduce The Benefits of JROTC
Some people believe that teaching leadership qualities to teenagers is exactly the same as teaching them to adults. However, the skills, principles, and techniques associated with learning such characteristics can change with age. While adults can seek out programs as part of their journey towards management positions, or their pursuit of a certain career, teenagers lack options when it comes to finding the perfect leadership learning environment.
An essential part of encouraging leadership qualities in any individual is ensuring they can thrive within the right atmosphere. At Army and Navy Academy, Cadets receive JROTC training - a concept that centers on the core pillars of character, leadership, and citizenship. The Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, or JROTC, is a program that uses military-inspired lessons to instill various character traits and life skills within students. Researchers agree that not only students, but also the community, can benefit from the use of these programs. Indeed, according to a case study performed in 2006, students found that, because of JROTC, their leadership skills had improved, along with higher degrees of self-confidence, self-discipline, and attendance.
It can be difficult to find ideal settings in which to encourage the development of leadership skills; however, the JROTC program allows for Cadets to learn in an active and practical manner, with lessons that help them to develop their academic achievement and encourage leadership skills for both the present and future.
Step Three: Build Upon Strong Teamwork Skills
People often envision leaders as being a step ahead of their peers, but a crucial part of leadership is knowing how to work well with others. Teamwork can be encouraged by assigning group projects and giving students an opportunity to work with other people to complete mental or physical goals. Whether it's finding the solution to a particularly tough question or beating the other team in a particular sport, teamwork can be encouraged within a variety of situations.
At the same time, in order to ensure that a leader's teamwork skills are at their optimum level, it is important to build listening skills. Being a leader isn't just about making tough decisions, it's also about taking your team's feedback into account and building upon their input to make the right next step. While leaders should embrace their passions, they cannot only have their own agendas in mind.
Step Four: Emphasize Vision and Perseverance
The term "vision" appears often in reference to leadership, as leaders must be able to craft a compelling vision they hope to bring about through hard work and perseverance. To some degree, this vision can help leaders handle successes and failures as gracefully as possible. After all, young people must learn how to handle losses and move forward when the other team triumphs or when a certain solution doesn't go as planned.
By emphasizing vision and perseverance, young men will be able to hone their problem-solving and decision-making skills, as they will learn that the only way to overcome a failure is to analyze the things that went wrong and learn from their mistakes. Great leaders often have a degree of self-knowledge and awareness, allowing them to see their own shortcomings and make improvements.
Encouraging leadership potential in a teenager is not something that will happen overnight. Teens need to learn self-discipline, overcome personal issues, and discover how to address problems in a confident, and practical manner. Today, it's up to the existing leaders in the world to train the next generation in vital skills and provide insights into the skills and attributes of great leadership.
Author Bio: Paige Maslen is the Associate Director of Marketing, Media, and Public Relations at Army and Navy Academy, a private military boarding school in San Diego County, California. Her specialties include strategy and content for the school’s digital properties. In her free time, Paige enjoys hiking, tennis, and yoga.
"Learning to Lead: Determination, Discipline, and Drive" originally appeared as a piece on armyandnayacademy.org