Leadership is a life skill

Life skills help youth navigate life successfully. Learning and practicing leadership is one of the skills youth need.

Use these ideas to help youth learn leadership skills.
Use these ideas to help youth learn leadership skills.

Life skills are a basic foundation that prepare youth for success in life. According to Michigan State University Extension, the goal is that every youth possess the necessary life skills to succeed and lead a productive life. As an adult it is our responsibility to help youth reach their full potential by teaching necessary life skills.

It is easy to incorporate life skills into your learning experiences. Using the Targeting Life Skills (TLS) Model by Iowa State University life skills can be intentionally planned into learning experiences through the use of simple hands-on activities and discussion questions.

Leadership is an important life skill that youth should learn in their development. Learning experiences should help youth learn how to how to lead by developing qualities that will help you know how to assist a group or person in meeting their goals. Some of the skills youth can learn through leadership include:

  • Self confidence
  • Communicating effectively including learning to listen, giving and receiving feedback
  • Working well with people by involving them in meaningful ways; motivating and empowering others and sharing leadership
  • Ability to plan, organize, delegate and assess
  • Accepting differences in people and in their opinions, managing conflict and flexibility

Youth should be able to complete the following skills at each age range. Since children and youth develop at different rates these skills are only a guide and are not a complete list of skills.

Ages 5-8:

  • Be a member of a group
  • Listen when others speak
  • Include others in a group
  • Be willing to be a helper

Ages 9-11:

  • Contribute to group effort
  • Help set group goals
  • Recognize and accept differences
  • Identify their own talents

Ages 12-14:

  • Negotiate personal and group needs
  • Begin to recognize different leadership styles
  • Find roles to use their skills
  • Practice assertiveness
  • Identify role models

Ages 15-19:

  • Organize groups to accomplish a purpose
  • Recognize there is more than one way to accomplish a task
  • Choose appropriately between leadership styles
  • Identify and use their personal strengths
  • Teach others new skills
  • Explore opportunities for adult leadership

Here are some ways that you can help youth learn the skill of goal setting:

  • Serve as an officer, teen leader, committee member or mentor in your club or county.
  • Teach younger youth a skill related to your 4-H project.
  • Learn about different leadership styles using temperament or personality assessments.

Using discussion questions after an educational experience can be a great way to help youth talk about what they experienced and connect their new learning to things they already know. This process is called the Experienital Learning Model (ELM). Here are some sample discussion questions by age range that you can use with your activities and experiences.

Ages 5-8:

  • How did you feel about this activity?
  • What did you learn about yourself during this activity?
  • What are some ways you like to learn?
  • How will your new skills help you in school?

Ages 9-11:

  • What happened during the activity?
  • What did the “leader” do to make you feel you were a part of the group?
  • Why was this important?
  • What would you do differently if you did the activity?

Ages 12-14:

  • What did you observe happened during the activity?
  • How did people communicate during the activity?
  • What are qualities that are important in a leader?
  • What are some other situations when you will need to use the skills you learned today?

Ages 15-19:

  • What surprised you about the activity?
  • What works best to get people involved and excited about doing this type of activity?
  • What do you feel you need to work on to be a good leader?
  • In what other ways could you apply the skills you gained in this activity?

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the MSU Extension website.

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