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Teaching Youth to Identify Essential Qualities of a Leader



Teaching Youth to Identify Essential Qualities of a Leader

(Adapted from  Leadership 101: Developing Leadership Skills for Resilient Youth, Facilitator’s Guide by Mariam MacGregor,, 2000. Used with permission from Mariam MacGregor & Youth Leadership Development Workbook, New Light Leadership Coalition, 2001-2003. Used with permission. )


What character traits are essential to leadership?  The following is a "starter list" of leadership character qualities/skills that youth can add to as they learn more about leadership. After this list you’ll find some suggested activities to do with youth to help them wrestle with this topic.

Leadership Qualities and Skills

Courage-The mindset that enables a person to face difficulty.   Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the willingness to do something in spite of fear.

Visionary-The ability to see the bigger picture in a situation or organization, and dream of possibilities that would be more beneficial. A visionary is one who imagines possibilities.

Change Agent-The ability to not only move people and things in a new direction, but also to accept, handle and thrive in the midst of change.  A change agent is one who can create a sense of urgency for a new direction, and guide a group down the path of that new direction.

Decisive-Having the willingness and ability to make a decision, judgment call or resolution.  Leaders would often rather make the wrong decision than no decision at all.

Perseverance-The ability to remain steady in a course of action; having tenacity and endurance despite hardship or discouragement.

Risk Taking-The courage to begin a course of action or make a decision even though failure is a possibility.  Risk takers realize that no one succeeds at every turn, and sometimes more can be learned from failure than success.

Creativity-The ability to use originality, innovation and imagination to solve problems or dream dreams.  A creative leader thinks "outside the box."

Confidence-The steady  belief or trust in yourself and your abilities.  The opposite of confidence is low self esteem or feeling worthless.

Self-Discipline-The ability to control your actions and order your behavior appropriately.

Honesty-Having truthfulness and integrity in your actions and dealings with others. 

Sense of Humor-The ability to see the lighter side of a situation or circumstance.  Key to having a sense of humor is having the ability to not take yourself too seriously.  Leaders can laugh at themselves.

Suggested activities:

(1) Have youth identify one person, preferably someone who is well known to the group, who exhibits each character quality, and discuss in a group setting why they think each person listed exhibits that particular quality.

(2) Have the youth rank which characteristics from the list they think are most important in a leader, and why.

(3) Have the youth identify which attributes they feel they already possess, and which ones they need to develop more strongly.  Discuss possible ways to develop each attribute.

Related Articles
Youth Leadership Development Toolkit

Related Books
Youth Leadership Development Workbook: A Guide for Emerging Young Leaders

Leadership 101: Developing Leadership Skills for Resilient Youth

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