Developing Leadership Skills in High School; Opportunities for Growth and Impact

Leaders aren’t born, they are made. The Great Man Theory of leadership is founded upon this principle, and champions that opportunities give rise to leadership. In much the same way tension grows muscles, leadership skills need adversity to mature. While it is true that certain innate traits and characteristics poise some students for leadership success than others, it’s a skill that any student can work on and improve their abilities . Today, we’ll discuss how to nurture high school leadership skills, in a way that triggers growth and true impact. 

Borrowing inspiration from history

History is littered with great leaders that everyone would be wise to emulate. From Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr and the leaders of the Indian independence movement, there’s an abundance of inspiration that can stir that spark in the soul.   

Providing such examples to students is essential to enable them to picture themselves in these types of shoes. While teachers provide these examples, it’s important to keep in mind the following: 

  • Make them relatable: Great leaders have arisen from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. Be sure to sample diverse perspectives and mention those that your students can greatly relate to. E.g. introverts who came into their own once they got the taste of leadership, for example, Elon Musk 
  • Goal-emphasis: Dissect the leaders’ goals and what leadership strategies or techniques they used, including what they did right 
  • Talk about real outcomes: Use factual information and reputable sources to illustrate what impact these leaders had on the world

Great leaders are often a product of history, and this is the first place to start in terms of aspiring young leaders to come into their own. 

Teachers should lead by example

We’ve talked about how history molds the leaders of tomorrow. But a student’s first source of inspiration is typically much closer to home. Teachers, subconsciously or otherwise, provide the blueprint for high school leadership skills. They are the first line of information regarding what leadership is or ought to be like. 

It’s therefore important that teachers must set the right example so that their students can follow in those footsteps. In terms of their actions and speech, teachers should exhibit the leadership skills that they want to see in their students.

Additionally, they should be role models of proper leadership behavior outside the classroom as well. Teachers should follow through on what they promise, and be the vessel of these positive traits that they want leaders to possess even beyond the classroom setting. 

Building leaders that serve

Service is what leadership is all about. High schools should provide opportunities for students to perform services and help the community. Such activities build up a learner’s empathy and compassion, while they generally in calculate the positive qualities that define a leader. It also helps would-be-leaders to step into the shoes of those that they would like to head, ensuring a higher likelihood of enforcing real change once they get to the top. 

It is an aspect of leadership that few schools practice or prioritize. Yet is at the very foundation of leaders that go on to make a difference. A few ways to improve high school leadership skills through service provision include:

  • Cleaning communities to take out trash or litter 
  • Volunteering to provide assistance at a homeless shelter
  • Performing chores in a senior living community, etc

Even as simple an act as reading to young students and helping them with their assignments can have a positive impact on a high schooler’s leadership abilities. 

Providing regular opportunities for communication

Leaders come in different shapes and sizes. One uniting trait across the board though has been that great leaders have excellent communication skills. Some are talented orators but got to that level through years of practice and hard work. 

For example, Elon Musk was initially an introverted engineer who struggled to stitch two sentences together in front of an audience without stammering. With practice, he pushed past his introverted nature to become the super-confident public speaker that he is today. 

The point is to provide constant platforms for communication, presentation, and public speaking. It doesn’t have to be anything grand or major such as a school play. It can also be as simple and frequent as reading out a passage in class and providing opinions or perspectives on what they’ve just read. 

Group projects also provide great opportunities for high school students to work on these skills as well.  The more they practice, the more confident and better at it they’ll get. 

Leadership skills are priceless in the modern world

The best colleges such as Harvard don’t just consider academic performance as a measure of a good student. They also take into account high school leadership skills and other interpersonal traits necessary for success in life. Students should, therefore, actively polish their leadership skills during their formative years. If you aspire to be a leader, place yourself in leadership positions at school. Start your own club, run for class president, and embrace every chance to run toward the spotlight rather than away from it.