What High School Seniors Learned About Leadership
Last week the students in my Leadership Through Service class submitted first semester reflections detailing with the most important lessons and ideas from the semester. Below are three rock solid lessons that students kept referring to. If you are in the business of training young leaders, I highly suggest considering these topics to keep them interested, motivated, and growing as leaders.
1. Jump, and Build Your Wings on the Way Down
My students were less than pleased with me when I told them that their final exam was going to be a speech in front of the class. After all, speaking in front of others is the number one fear in America. One girl exclaimed, “I can’t do a speech, I am scared.” I replied, “then you will have to do it scared.”
If you raise the expectations for young leaders, they will respond. You need to give them opportunities to try, fail, and reflect, but in the end the success is well worth the agony of growing. I watched 98 speeches, and each one of them was great in their own right. I watched introverted students drop the jaws of their classmates with personal stories about leadership and growth. We laughed, we cried and we amazed each other with our anecdotes. I know more about the students in my class, and for that I am grateful. I watched them grow, and each one of them shined like I knew they could.
2. Teach Student to Connect
In the world of Instagram, Twitter, and texting, young adults don’t know how to connect. Over an over again in the reflections that students wrote, connection was a common theme. I taught them how to mirror the behaviors of others, how to ask better questions, and how to increase their intentionality with their peers. The majority discovered a new “inner circle” that helped them grow into better people and leaders. Connection is very difficult for students and if it is not taught and encouraged, it will not develop.
3. It’s Not About Them
The most important lesson that my students learned this year was that leadership is not about them. In order to be a leader, you have to serve others. Many students commented on how they lead by example in order to help younger students grow. Some even went as far as to discuss their legacy. The legacy most discussed was about leaving behind their gifts and talents for others to pass on in order to help athletic or fine arts programs to grow.
It is a proven fact that if a pumpkin is placed in a jar, it will only grow as large as that jar. The same is true for young leaders. Young leaders will reach the bar that is set for them regardless of how high. As educators and leadership developers, we must ensure that we push students to achieve their highest potential.