For the past few weeks, we have been exploring how we can encourage and empower the young women in our lives. We’ve seen that you have more influence in your daughter’s life – or the life of the young women in your life – than you think. Research shows that teens are closely observing their parents and are influenced by what they see.
So, if your teen regularly sees you asking questions and listening to her, she gets the message that what she has to say has value. She also gets the message that listening is important – which is a great leadership skill in and of itself. Plus, by the time almost all of us get to adulthood, the things we heard our parents/authority figures say a thousand times become the voices in our heads. So, we discussed the importance of being intentional about what that voice sounds like and making it one that affirms her gifts and her worth. And finally, today, we are going to explore the importance of encouraging her to pursue leadership roles and development opportunities.
Leadership development is a life-long process, and it’s never too early to begin. In fact, a 2012 Leadership Insights survey found that 90% of the 492 professionals surveyed believed that leadership development should start before age 18. Similarly, Bruce Tulgan (2014), internationally recognized as one of the leading experts on young people in the workplace, echoed this sentiment when he said the following about “Generation Z”:
“There is a growing nontechnical skill gap among the emerging young workforce. The basics of responsibility, problem solving, time management, and interpersonal communication are way too often missing in the new young workforce…This requires an ongoing process of teaching personal conduct, work habits, and the conduct of working relationships.”
In other words, “Generation Z” needs leadership development. And high school is just the time to start.
Leadership roles can be both formal and informal. Formal roles can include running for student government, being the Captain of a team, or an Officer of a club. But informal roles matter as well. At the heart of it, leadership is influencing a group of people toward a common goal, and even those without formal titles have the ability to influence others.
So ask your daughter, even if she’s not the captain, what does she want her role on the team to look like? For example, it’s not just about whether she wants to play 2nd base or 3rd base, but rather, how does she want to interact with and engage with her teammates? Does she want to be an encourager? Or known as someone who leads by example? Someone who offers to help when others are struggling? Or perhaps, if she’s a junior or senior, could she mentor the freshmen and sophomores coming behind her? Help her recognize her influence and how to use it intentionally.
Also encourage her to pursue leadership development opportunities. Again, this can be more formal or informal. On the formal side, perhaps it’s taking a leadership elective at school, or getting involved with a leadership club, or a program like Blossom & Flourish that provides leadership training for middle school and high school students. Another great program to get involved with, and that is available all around the country, is The Jefferson Awards’ Students In Action. And finally, you can also check whether your local community college offers any leadership development workshops throughout the year.
Last but not least, leadership development opportunities can also occur more informally by pursuing opportunities that challenge us and draw us out of our comfort zones. Maybe that means encouraging your daughter to take on more responsibility in a group, club, or team that she is already a part of – could she volunteer to lead a project? Or, perhaps it’s simply taking the first step to join a group she’s been interested in, but has let fear or doubt hold her back from joining. While we shouldn’t force the young woman in our lives to do something, we can reiterate how much we believe in her gifts and strengths and how we think she would be a great candidate for the task, addition to the team, etc.
In the end, while you may not be able to control the type of world the young woman in your life will step into on her own one day, you can prepare her for what lies ahead. And beyond that, by regularly listening to her, affirming her talents, strengths, and passions, and encouraging her to pursue leadership roles and development opportunities, you can empower her to make a difference in this world.