Are leaders born or developed? This is an argument that has raged as long as people have needed leaders. The truth is that leadership is a lifelong pursuit. Anyone can hone their skills and get better at the things that make someone a good leader. But we need to recognize that some people are naturally inclined toward those qualities.
There are many different kinds of leaders, and they all have strengths. When we recognize these attributes in children, we must encourage growth in those areas and prepare them to use their gifts.
Charisma is that intangible quality that draws others to you. While we can all develop behaviors that make us more (or less) charismatic, some people just naturally seem to attract others. And since leadership is primarily influence, charismatic people are ahead of the game.
When you see effortlessly popular kids, pay attention. Charisma is an excellent raw material for leadership. But without guidance and input, that charm is just as likely to be used negatively.
Most kids develop empathy as their world grows beyond their personal needs and desires. When they begin to recognize that other people have their own feelings, they learn to see things from different perspectives. Some children demonstrate an exceptional level of empathy. They seem to be aware of the emotional temperature in a room and react faster when others are hurt or upset. They may frequently talk about how they think other people are feeling, or how someone else’s actions affected another person.
Empathy is an incredibly critical skill in leaders, but kids who tend to be more empathetic don’t often aspire to leadership. When we recognize empathy in kids, it’s helpful to draw them into situations where they influence and guide their peers. Empathetic kids tend to make leaders who are great communicators.
It’s entirely possible to learn to be bold, but some kids just seem to be imbued with a natural fearlessness. This can often be irritating to the adults around them because they tend to be wild, and they don’t have their peers’ fear of penalty or censure. As frustrating as kids like that might seem, it might actually be a strength worth developing.
Leaders with the audacity to do the right thing, no matter how unpopular it might be, are worth their weight in gold. So pay attention to those kids who don’t seem to have any regard for their own safety or social conventions. They just make ideal future leaders.
Playing toward kids’ strengths
These are just three of the many character traits we expect from leaders we can find in kids. Others might include things like:
Many of the qualities we expect from leaders are found in their raw form in children. The best teachers recognize that every kid is different and has different skills and attributes that need to be developed. And to treat kids equally, we need to treat them a little differently.
As we develop the leadership skills in our youth, we will set the church up for growth and success in the future. But recognizing and developing the leadership qualities of the kids in our churches requires help. It’s hard to do if your children’s ministry runs on a skeleton crew.
Download a free copy of our ebook, The Practical Guide to Recruiting and Retaining Kidmin Volunteers, and put a team in place that can turn today’s kids into tomorrow’s leaders!