Written by Mrs. Rhensely

Many believe that some people are born with the ability to lead, and others believe that leaders develop skills over time that enables them to lead.

Some people are indeed born with a personality type that makes it easier to lead, but the obvious answer is leaders develop their skills over time.

Some may have the opportunity to practice specific skills more than others, so they appear to be born leaders.

However, it is the exposure to particular skills and the chance to practice these skills in different situations that create strong leaders. In short, teen leaders can be developed.

Characteristics of Great Leaders

According to the Center for Creative Leadership,  all great leaders share the following characteristics:

♦     integrity

♦     ability to delegate

♦     communication

♦     self-awareness

♦     gratitude

♦     competence

♦     influence

♦     empathy

♦     courage

♦     respect

Additionally, author Clinton McLemore added more attributes to this list in Inspiring Trust, Strategies for Effective Leadership, including:

♦     intellect

♦     stability

♦     emotional intelligence

♦     motivation

♦     flexibility

♦     assertiveness

How can anyone possibly possess all of these competencies? Yet, we have all encountered leaders who hold many, if not all, of these characteristics.

Recognizing Great Leaders in Your Life

Consider leaders you encountered throughout your lifetime, a beloved teacher, coach, or boss. Most likely, you admired this leader and wanted to emulate what you saw.  You remember them for the critical and meaningful role they played in your life.

They connected with you on many levels and probably inspired you to be your best self. So, how did they become leaders who possess all of these skills?

They weren’t born that way, nor did they one day decide to lead. They developed these traits throughout their childhood by witnessing strong leaders and then practicing the skills as they grew into adults. 

Why Is It Essential to Develop These Characteristics?

When children acquire the characteristics related to leadership, they reap the benefits throughout their life. The ability to:

♦     make independent decisions

♦     help others

♦     achieve goals

are connected to leadership skills.

Quote on developing leadership skills in youth

Throughout middle school and high school, teen leaders with these competencies are more successful and possess higher self-esteem. They tend to be happier, more confident, and more motivated.

As adults, leadership skills assist with job satisfaction, promotion, community involvement, and overall well-being.

According to the Journal of Leadership Education, many universities now seek students with leadership experience, and employers are also looking for people with leadership skills.

What Can Parents Do to Help Their Children Develop These Skills So They Can Become Great Leaders?

First, children need to witness good leadership, and that begins with you. Children learn through example, and parents are their very first and most influential example.

Parenting Style

Parenting style matters, and so does parents’ connections with others. Your parenting style should be authoritative where there are high expectations, yet you allow your kids to fail.

It would be best to support and respond to their needs while setting strict boundaries and consistently enforcing rules. Allow children to witness positive and honest interactions with friends, co-workers, and retail workers.

When parents treat others with warmth and compassion, children learn to do the same. Children internalize these interactions and will emulate them throughout life.

Approach to Problems

Children will also internalize how you approach problems. They should witness you wrestle with conflicts so they will know how to approach issues. It is a natural tendency for children to imitate what they see, so they should observe their parents facing and coping with challenges.

Parents do not need to pretend that life is perfect, nor do they need to shield their children from understanding that challenges are a part of life.

If children witness their parents coping with problems honestly, with all the anxiety and stress, it demonstrates the realities of life. Facing the problem authentically rather than hiding it from children shows how problems are overcome.

So, when children face a challenge, they have the confidence to confront it head-on. They understand that coping with a problem is not the end of the world but a part of everyday life. The skills needed to solve problems are connected to the necessary skills to lead.

“High self-esteem is not created by receiving praise all the time or listening to motivational talks, but it is built-in having connections with others and realizing that setbacks are opportunities to grow…”

Others’ opinions or ideas do not threaten those with high self-esteem, and they welcome diverse thinking. Having high self-esteem works conjointly with building leadership skills.

Here’s a video of Admiral McRaven giving the commencement speech at the University of Texas – Austin in 2014. He talks about steps to take to change the world (becoming leaders). It’s really good. He also has a book about this talk on Amazon.

Model Good Relationships

When children witness their parents connecting with others, treating people with compassion, and dealing with conflicts responsibly, they see leaders. They internalize these characteristics, and this helps to build their self-esteem.

According to Bobi Seredich, in an article entitled, Why Self-esteem is Critical to Successful Leadership, she states:


More than ever, we need strong teen leaders who can problem solve, show compassion, and connect with others. Every individual has the potential to be a leader.

Each child has strengths and weaknesses, but overall, leadership skills can be developed through exposure and practice. It begins with parents setting the examples and educators the following suit.