When you tell a kid he’s a leader, he just might keep leading, but chances are, he won’t believe you right away. And even if he does, he may back away from the perceived weight of leadership. I mean, what 14 year old boy really wants to assume responsibility for someone else? He may just not believe you at all.
“Yeah, right.” [insert eyeroll]-young leader in denial
I recently sat down with a young man who is a leader to make sure he understands that he is, indeed, a leader. Every time I see this guy, several others are hanging on to his agenda and following everything he does. He doesn’t see it yet, but he’s leading his peers. This is great when he’s gathering his friends to get something accomplished; it’s less than stellar when he’s cruising in neutral not thinking at all about where he’s going. I’m hoping that he will see what I see and begin to think about where and how he’s leading. That’s a great place to start.
“Not me.”-young leader in opposition
But not every kid is oblivious to the leadership potential they have. They can feel it, they just don’t want it. I once spoke with a leadership type kid who was the son of a prominent community leader. He felt overburdened by the weight of expectations and blurted out “I don’t want to be a leader.” He was simply unwilling to accept the weight of responsibility of leadership – which ironically (and unfortunately) had zero effect on whether or not he was leading. It just caused him to lead in destructive and distracting ways with no vision for something more meaningful.
“Who would follow me?”-young leader in fear
Other kids will shy away from being a leader due to some fear or insecurity. I remember being embarrassed when someone first named the leadership they saw in me. “Why would they want to follow me? I’m not cool enough to be the leader…” Our fear often blinds us to the leadership that others see in us.
“I’m not so sure, but I’ll give it a shot… What’s next?-young leader in humility
Sometimes, a student will let you point her to what you see in her what she didn’t see in herself. She’ll listen. She’ll notice glimpses of the leadership you’ve pointed out and desire to be faithful to fan that gift into flame. It’s incredible. One of the greatest joys I’ve had working with students has been watching this begin a process that helped them discover lives of purposeful leadership. Even as students, they began to think and act with intent and with an awareness of those who were following their lead, and that has made all the difference in the world. All over the world!
When you tell a kid she’s a leader, be ready.
She just might lead.