In the Trenches, Incoherent Ramblings, Leadership Journey

Reframing Student Leadership

Reframing Student Leadership
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I saw a youth ministry related facebook post the other day asking how the collective hive mind selects student leaders. I think this is an extremely legitimate question, but one that needs a quick reframing.

Let me start by zooming out. The bottom line when it comes to leadership development is that I am not the only person interested in developing students into growing leaders. In fact, depending on their extracurricular activities, I may be one of multiple people interested in helping them expand their leadership influence.

As we zoom in, however, we start to see a few key differences. Of all the people in a student’s life who want them to grow as a leader, I may be one of a select few who are interested in teaching servant leadership, and more specifically, servant leadership as modeled and taught by Jesus.

So, when I look at a room of students and want to select a few student leaders, my approach is a little different. I have written about two key traits for student leaders previously (you can read that here), but one of my criteria is willingness to serve. If a student is unwilling to serve, then neither of us grow from the time we spend.

I watched this play out first hand. I used to think if I saw leadership potential in a student, they would benefit from me calling it out of them. But there was a flaw in my approach. I was calling something out of a student who wasn’t willing to serve, and as a result their commitment level was abnormally low, and even started to resent me for expecting them to show up.

Now I take a different approach. Most recently, I have students fill out an application and sit down for an interview before joining the leadership team. If a student is willing to put forth the effort of filling out an application and scheduling an interview, then we have an agreement there will be a time commitment to what they’re doing.

I cannot call something out of someone who is unwilling to grow.

Guilting a student into leadership misses the point.

Only allowing the popular kids to lead misses the point.

Establishing leadership as a higher rung misses the point.

On Thursday I will continue this thought, but for today let me ask you to join me in considering this: is your approach to developing leaders around you a healthy one? Are you willing to make the changes necessary? Are you willing to keep what needs to be kept?

Watching leaders grow their leadership influence is one of the most exciting parts of what I do. But that doesn’t mean everything is a win. I have had to adapt over the years. Maybe you need to do the same thing.

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