Lead the Way: Finding Ways for Teens of All Personalities to Build Leadership Skills

Traditional thinking lends itself to unhelpful stereotypes that can limit kids as they grow into young adults. We often see leaders as extroverts, or think diametrically: there are leaders and followers. The reality is that leadership and opportunities for young people to build these skills are much more nuanced and flexible. Building leadership skills can also help teens gain confidence, self-awareness, and resiliency that support mental and emotional well-being. As parents, we can help our children find the leadership style and tasks that fit best with their personalities and skill sets.

Leadership Personalities

While extroverted personality traits are often aligned with our traditional sense of leadership, research shows that introverted people are just as likely to be effective leaders. As parents, we may allow our own biases and assumptions to dictate our children’s activities and opportunities. It’s important that we challenge our own assumptions about what makes a good leader and encourage our children to embrace their personalities and subvert stereotypes.

According to Forbes Business Council,  leadership qualities go beyond personality type. The Center for Creative Leadership lists 10 qualities of good leadership including:

Focusing on qualities instead of personality can help teens find confidence to seek out leadership opportunities.

Leadership Styles

Northeastern University lists the five most common leadership styles:

Transformational Leadership

These highly influential leaders serve as role models to inspire others.

Participatory Leadership

Leaders who employ this hands-on style seek to bring a more democratic dimension to management instead of utilizing a traditional top-down approach. 

Value-based Leadership

Value-based leaders guide their teams by encouraging others to act in accordance with the organization’s shared core values. 

Situational Leadership

The Center for Leadership Studies explains that situational leaders must have the ability to:

  • Diagnose an individual’s performance readiness to complete a specific task
  • Adapt leader behavior based on the diagnosis
  • Communicate an influence approach in the manner that followers can both understand and accept
  • Advance by making the move toward higher performance

Servant Leadership

Servant leaders enrich the lives of others by focusing on building better organizations and ultimately creating a world that is more caring and equitable.

Once a young person finds a style of leadership that fits best with their personality and preferences, then it will be easier to find opportunities to practice it.

Opportunities to Lead

Parents can gently coax their teens to seek out activities where they can practice leadership skills and styles. While moving beyond comfort zones can be important to build resilience and flexibility, you can also start with activities that align with your child’s interests.

School activities, clubs, and sports teams can be excellent places to build leadership skills. However, you can look beyond school-sanctioned activities as well with community service, clubs, and even an afterschool job. 

What’s most important is that you and your child collaborate and find something that they will both enjoy and find challenging. Wherever their path leads, your teen can find avenues to lead, boosting confidence and establishing a strong foundation for growth and opportunity.


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