Five tips for building five key leadership skills – Part 1: Making decisions

Explore some quick ideas to add leadership opportunities to any youth development activity.

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Any project within youth development programs can benefit from adding layers of leadership skills. These skills include decision-making, responsible citizenship, public speaking, setting goals and problem-solving. Infusing these skills will add dimension to any project area.

It is important for youth to be able to practice decision-making skills in order to increase their abilities. Here are a few things even new volunteers can do to develop the decision-making skills of their participants:

  • Allow youth to make their own decisions, even if the adult volunteers don’t agree. Students may consider different influences than adults when making their decision, and it may end up being a better decision. If you are an adult, try to recall a time when someone told you what to do and you thought it was the wrong decision. How did that make you feel?
  • Let youth experience the consequences of their decisions. It is easy for adults to want to "fix" a decision they believe is wrong, but the youth will learn more by seeing a decision through to the end result.
  • With younger children, give them two specific options to choose from. This will help them build confidence in making decisions in a more controlled situation. They will also appreciate having some degree of control over their experience.
  • Help youth actively think about their voice. Take polls to let them make decisions as a group (which toppings to order on a pizza, whether to meet Tuesday or Saturday next week, which community service project they want to work on).
  • Engage youth in current events. Give them a space to talk about what’s going on and what they think about it. Allow them to have differing opinions, but make sure they treat all opinions with respect.

The newly revised Teen Leadership Project Guide is an excellent additional resource to help young people think of leadership as a project, as well as help them plan for how to improve and increase their skills. 

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program helps to prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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