Search the site

Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


What’s at the Root of All Young Leader Development?

One of the crying needs of our day is young leader development to equip our youth to lead the way into the future.  Certainly we must teach them to be followers first—but there is a great need for leadership development as they graduate and enter their careers.

So what is at the root of true young leader development?

It is the shift of responsibility.

From one generation to the next.

Taking place over time.

I believe training doesn’t really take effect until there is a transfer of responsibility (click to tweet). We can teach all day, show videos, play instructive games and do assessments, but until we actually give them responsibility—we have not really built a leader.

young leader development

photo credit: Sam Beebe, Ecotrust via photo pin cc

If you know me, you recognize I am a fan of teaching, videos, experiential learning and assessments. Those are all tools we can employ to prepare young leaders. But, alas, they are controlled environments. They simulate leader training, but cannot finish the job, anymore than reading books about weightlifting, observing a fitness center or watching videos of strong guys cannot ultimately build our own muscles. We have to go lift the weights ourselves.

When we do pass on responsibility, suddenly, all the lectures, experiences and testing are relevant.

So—how are you doing at actually giving responsibility to your students? Are you intentional about doing it, over time, as you practice young leader development?


  1. Cameron Underdown on September 21, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Within the youth ministry that i lead, we have a great number of college and 20s and even adults stepping into leadership for the first time.we do well at giving them clear responsibility from the outset, but that also come with consequences.I’ve had to fire or suspends volunteers throughout the years, and clear consequences are given at the same time as clear directive and responsibility. My take: don’t be afraid to give responsibility; just know that you will have to give consequences as well. Its all worth it.

    • Tim Elmore on September 24, 2012 at 3:57 pm

      Clarity is a good thing, especially for young leaders. People may not always agree with your decisions but when you’ve been clear from the start, it shouldn’t be a surprise. These lessons can be instrumental in helping them grow as leaders.

  2. Mary on September 21, 2012 at 6:52 am

    The Institute for Cultural Communicators has been training students for 15 years through communication training and leadership opportunities. We give students based on their level of training and service, amazing responsibilities. Currently 2 of my sons(17 and 19yrs) are traveling the country with a team of 8 peers. Their mission is ICC’s: to equip Christians to shape the future through authentic leadership and cultural communication. They(students) have created and designed instruction for conferences and are presenting interactive and engaging labs as well as managing the operation of these communication training events for students 6-18 in cities across the country. My 16yo son is responsible for leading a local community of students(30+) where we live. He works with 2 other peers on a team of student leaders and they too are planning and preparing the weekly training and being models(and trainers) for the next wave of students leaders that have joined us this year. Students at 11yrs start preparing to be the next student leaders. As a believer, educator for 20 years and graduate of the US Naval Academy, I haven’t seen another place connecting authentic leadership with cultural communication so relevantly and practically as ICC. It is why our family pours our time into training and getting out the word. We need to equip Christians to shape the future.

    • Tim Elmore on September 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm

      That’s a great example and sounds like an incredible experience for your sons. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Jay Apking on September 21, 2012 at 10:52 am

    In all the leadership training we teach, do we actually give children (starting at an early age) responsibilities to put leadership to actual use? Can we not start to require children to practice leadership in school? Great American Child encourages teachers to pick a classroom “mayor” for each week. This student has to come up with a simple structure for the class to follow and consequences for students who break the rules. The rules have to be fair and help toward the classroom’s goals set forth by the teacher. The mayor rotates each week and the teacher meets with the student before the rules are laid out and after the week is up to review what worked and what didn’t. This way all students get a taste of being in a position of leadership and learn to respect other leaders. I love talking to children about leadership, but it can be like talking to kids about baseball. Until you give them a ball, bat and glove and put them on the field, they can’t truly understand.

    • Tim Elmore on September 24, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      Great point – until we give students actual responsibilities, it’s hard to learn leadership.

Leave a Comment

What’s at the Root of All Young Leader Development?