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A Youth Leader

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 5 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Youth Leader Lead Work Leader Youth

Team work is a great way to build confidence and teach leadership to teenagers and youths but for many, the thought of leading a group of teenagers can be a daunting one. However, teenagers respond to the same principles of respect, integrity and communication that defines good leadership in other arenas so by applying the same skills when dealing with a group of youths, it is possible to achieve success.

The Benefits Of Having A Youth Leader

Time spent in groups and teams can be very important and beneficial to teenagers. Especially in our increasingly hectic modern society, there is a danger of isolation in the “bigness” of our culture and with the re-definition of family structures that has occurred in the past few decades, many teenagers no longer have a traditional community or extended family to grow up with. This means that they may look for a supportive community in other places – which may not be as healthy for their physical and emotional well-being.

Well-organised groups and teams with good leaders provide a much-needed healthy community and environment where teenagers and youths can learn about themselves, their relationships with others and their place in the world. Here they can build on the skills and traits which will enable them to achieve success in the rest of their lives and also form significant relationships with caring adults who can model leadership qualities for them.

Qualities Of A Good Youth Leader

Youth leaders require many of the same qualities and skills as leaders in other arenas, even though they may not be managing projects in the corporate business world or discussing world politics. In fact, they could be considered as having an even more important responsibility as their decisions and actions are potentially influencing and shaping the future lives of many young adults. They have even greater responsibilities as a role model than leaders in many other fields and their communication and inter-personal skills have to be even more sophisticated than in many other leadership positions.

Here are two traits that are very important for a youth leader:

Great Communication Skills

A well-known cartoon by Gary Larson shows a human giving a dog lengthy instructions and the dog not hearing a word except his name! Communicating with teenagers can seem like this scenario if you don’t make the effort to express yourself clearly and persuasively, and if you don’t command enough respect for the teenagers to want to listen to you.

However, beware of talking too much! Some youth leaders – in their enthusiasm to impart wisdom and advice on their charges – never give their group members a chance to talk as well. This kind of leader will often give long, personal anecdotes and even when he finally pauses to ask a question, may interrupt any answers offered to give the answer himself. This will lead to resentment from the teenagers at being ‘talked at’ rather than ‘talked to’ – and could well lead to the above scenario of them shutting themselves off and ultimately, not hearing anything that is being said.

Confident Authority

At the other end of the spectrum is the youth leader who lets his charges walk all over him. Often because he is too worried about being popular and getting the group members to like him, such a leader is weak and ineffective: his group does not follow directions, they are disrespectful to him and to each other – and whenever he makes a weak attempt at asserting leadership, they either laugh at him or ignore him.

Sadly, this pattern of behaviour becomes harder to change the longer it is allowed to continue – so for any one to be effective leader of teenagers, it is important to establish authority and respect early on in the relationship.

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