What's at the Root of All Young Leader Development


How are you doing at actually giving responsibility to your students or teens? Are you intentional about doing it, over time, as you prepare them to lead?

One of the crying needs of our day is 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 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 affect until there is a transfer of responsibility. 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.

If you know me, you recognize I’m 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 elements. 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 can 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.

One university we work with allowed students to take full responsibility for the leadership training that went on last year. Two students stepped up and led the way, raised the money, came up with the issues to be discussed at the conference, and planned the mentoring process that would follow the fall event. When I asked the dean if they’d made any poor decisions, he said, “Of course they did. They’re young and inexperienced.”  Then—he went on to say, “But we have never had so much “buy in” to leadership development than when these students took charge. They are solving problems, raising money, recruiting peers to volunteer and inciting passion. We are seeing larger numbers of leaders and deeper engagement than ever before.”

It wasn’t the most polished leadership training they’ve ever experienced, but it was the most effective. Why? Because of who owned it.

The key to it all was the transfer of responsibility.

So—how are you doing at actually giving responsibility to your students? Are you intentional about doing it, over time, as you prepare them to lead?

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