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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


A Model to Develop Student Leaders


It’s my privilege to teach leadership, facilitate leadership projects and answer questions from thousands of teens and twenty-somethings each year. As you well know, they’ll face a challenging world (and economy) once they graduate.

Gwinnett Student Leadership Team

Today, I’d like to encourage you with the story of one group of students, who are part of an ongoing initiative in Gwinnett County, just north of Atlanta. They give me hope for the future.

This cadre of students is from the largest county in Georgia. They’re called GSLT and are led by Nancy Ward. Every high school in Gwinnett County selects three juniors and three seniors to be part of this initiative. They’re chosen not purely because of academic performance, but due to character, campus involvement and influence among their peers. There is a fairly equal amount of males and females. These students meet on a regular basis, at least six times during the school year to:

  • Learn leadership in workshops at the Chamber of Commerce
  • Meet community leaders, from business, non-profits and institutions
  • Assess themselves from personality to strengths to leadership style
  • Go on field trips around the greater Atlanta area
  • Connect with each other to learn best practices around the county.

I am privileged to be one of their instructors/mentors…and I love being with these students. They have a big heart, a great mind and a bias for action. The question and answer times are significant times of banter, with students agreeing and disagreeing with each other as they attempt to solve problems on their campuses. It is a virtual laboratory for leadership experiments; it’s an incubator for young leaders.

Now, here’s the cool part. These upperclassmen return to their school campus with a game plan to impact the student body. They have begun to influence the culture on those campuses—so much so that principals have told me they leave the major goals that must be accomplished for student engagement up to the GSLT students. The GSLT students have launched freshmen mentoring communities, leadership conferences on their campus, fundraising events and spirit clubs. As you read this, many are involved in mentoring a group of younger student leaders today.

Leaders from other school districts from around the state and the nation have come to examine what GSLT is accomplishing and are launching their own version of it.

Just wanted to encourage you as you invest in young people where you are.


  1. Christopher Ward on April 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Tim, thank you for sharing about a great way of developing leaders at a county level. I am a part of a team called Leadership Beyond Boundaries at the Center for Creative Leadership that shares this passion for preparing next generation leaders and citizens. It is incredibly encouraging to, time and time again, hear the stories of this growing movement. I believe we are a part of a mighty wave that has yet to crest–a culture in deep need of a new model for preparing our children, students, and young professionals for a new world. Your involvement with GSLT seems very impactful on all parties, and is another example of the dynamic possibilities that come from empowered young people. Amazing. In our work with Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, NC they are infusing leadership and citizenship development into their ENTIRE educational experience PreK-12th grade! At Southern Methodist University the Lyle School of Engineering has built a leadership process through which students will gain leadership skills that make them distinct among engineering graduates. At the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania, they have turned the value of leadership into a key focus and created dynamic conferences and experiences for their students, as well as training in leadership developmental practices for their faculty and staff. These examples connect to your own GSLT story and are truly scratching the surface of this surging wave. It is a pleasure to surf alongside you, and each one reading who shares in this critical vision. Thanks, Tim!

    • Tim Elmore on April 22, 2013 at 9:19 am

      Thanks for the post, Christopher. I’m humbled by these students and their leaders every time we meet! Great examples of student leadership models and teams. I hope you find these posts helpful as you impact students within Leadership Beyond Boundaries!

  2. Joseph Lalonde on April 18, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Tim, this is awesome. It’s great to see initiatives like GSLT getting student leaders together and equipping them to lead in life. Any tips on getting this started in other cities?

    • Tim Elmore on April 22, 2013 at 9:36 am

      Joe, the brilliant mind behind GSLT is Nancy Ward. You may want to connect with her [email protected] about what it takes to start this type of team in other cities. Christopher, below, also looks to be knowledgeable about the topic.

      Additionally, I’m hosting an event in Atlanta on June 27+28 that will equip leaders like yourself to keep up with the next generation. It’s called National Leadership Forum and may be a huge resource for you as you develop students. I’d love to see you there!

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A Model to Develop Student Leaders