Yesterday, I blogged about the traits you can spot in students—even at a young age—that can be predictors of future leadership qualities. I believe there are at least five of these early traits, and they spell the word PRIDE.
A Different Kind of PRIDE
I believe authentic leaders possess a different kind of pride. It constitutes a set of qualities in young people that spell the word PRIDE. Check out this list below, and note any you see in the students around you. Possessing even one of them could be an indicator of future leadership you can foster. If a student has all five, you can bank on the fact they’ll be leading something in their future.
Yesterday, we covered:
- Perception – A student possesses the ability to see a ripple effect or pattern and want to improve a situation. They see things before, bigger and beyond what others do.
- Responsibility – A student feels ownership of a situation, which pushes them to respond to an injustice or a wrong reality and make it better.
Here are three more early predictors of leadership in young people:
I – Initiative.
A third leadership signal young people demonstrate is initiative. This is the internal drive to act. As they perceive something could be done to improve conditions, they believe it should be done, so they step out and do it first. They don’t necessarily wait for peers to approve. At times, they may not wait to see if their behavior is the norm or safe. They go first and act, even if it isn’t the wisest or most strategic way to respond to the wrong. They can’t sit still, so they speak up or stand up.
This can lead students to do some very stupid things—things they might get punished for—because they can’t stand the current conditions. But we must remember: it is an early sign of leadership. The young person’s perception is clear, and their dissatisfaction is compelling. I’ve known kids to get involved with recycling bottles, or raising money for a friend who has cancer, or even collecting clothes and food for Haiti simply because they have a strong sense of initiative.
How can we foster this trait? First, watch what issues seem to ignite the students around you. Afterward, encourage them to process how best to respond to those situations… then, how best to to act.
D – Dissatisfaction.
Students sending this signal feel (and perhaps express) negative emotions. Their prompting is a bad feeling inside that motivates them to react. This one may seem counter-intuitive, but a negative emotion in a student might actually be an early signal of leadership potential.
Before they display talent, vision, or planning skills, you might just see discontentment residing inside them. It occurs when she spots a reality she deems wrong. Something seems unjust, mediocre, or evil and needs to be changed. The feeling inside the young person looks negative, not positive. It may display itself in raw emotion like anger, grief, disappointment or sadness. However, if channeled correctly, this instinct can be powerful.
Young Martin Luther King, Jr. couldn’t sit still as he watched racial inequality during the 1950s and 60s. The injustice pushed him to speak, to march, to organize sit-ins and demonstrations and meetings and boycotts. He admitted to being angry early on, but his response was very intentional, guided by his study of Mahatma Gandhi and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He decided the movement must be peaceful and meaningful, impacting southern cities where it counted: their budgets. Today, we must teach students how to respond—not react—to negative emotions and turn them into positive actions.
How can we foster this quality? When you notice something that stirs up emotion in a student, sit down and discuss precisely what it is that upsets them. Once they identify it, talk over how they could respond and the ramifications of each response. Help them act wisely, turning their dissatisfaction into duty.
E – Energy.
Even if it’s moving in a wrong direction, an early indicator of leadership is energy inside a young person. They exude passion that can be contagious with others.
While I realize leadership and energy are not synonymous, very often the student who brings raw energy to the group is the one who ends up leading. Sometimes peers assume the one who has it is a natural leader. Statistics show that the kid who speaks first is often expected to lead. It can show up in charisma, a sense of humor, or a predisposition to talk or react, but young leaders frequently bring energy to others.
A boy in kindergarten once displayed so much energy on day one that his teacher decided to capitalize on it. She told Collin he would be a leader for the class—and promptly channeled his energy into very clear directions for him and his fellow students. It ended up being an incredibly positive experience for everyone. After week one, Collin told his dad he was a leader. When his father asked what that meant, he got a great life lesson from his son. Collin simply said: “I get to open doors for others.” What a simple summary of what leaders do for others.
How can we foster this trait? As a leader, help them discover ways they can channel their energy into positive, redemptive actions. Help them become a river, not a flood.
Here’s to you identifying all kinds of leadership potential in your students in 2015.
Looking to develop leadership skills in students this school year? Check out