The question of whether leaders are born or made has been a topic of discussion since ancient times. Even today, people refer to natural leadership abilities, but research has shown that training programs and educational experiences can contribute to the development of skills and qualities that effective leaders need.
Leadership training is typically available in business, teacher education, organizations, and higher education. The question that needs to be addressed is would access to leadership training in middle school and high school provide students with more self-awareness and confidence? Learning skills like goal setting, problem solving, communication skills, and interaction skills can only contribute to the development of the student so why is it not happening?
The case has been made that students involved in sports and after school clubs and activities have opportunities to develop leadership skills, but what about the rest of the students? The students not involved in extracurricular activities, for a myriad of reasons, also need to develop those skills and knowledge that will make them successful as students and in their future.
Schools provide a safe arena to practice skills and students can identify their personal strengths and acquire competencies to enhance their opportunities for success. As an inclusive environment, schools can encourage inclusion and manage outcomes.
Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts refer to one definition of leadership as a person exerting influence on others, and other theories present leadership as not simply an individual exerting influence, but also “dyadic, shared, relational, strategic, global and a complex social dynamic” (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012, p. 219). Focusing on leadership development in schools would develop self-awareness, listening skills, negotiation skills, goals, and commitment. Becoming astute with these skills creates a sound base for students in future endeavors. This venue is also the correct place for students to recognize their unique talents, whether it’s art, math, music, or emotional intelligence to figure out how people can work effectively in a group and what they can personally contribute.
Another value in providing leadership development in schools is related to Bandura’s social cognitive learning theory. This theory recognizes the importance of modeling behavior (Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts, 2012, p. 211). Providing positive role models as facilitators children can learn first hand an effective way to manage communications and conflict. The process allows the modeling behavior and the ability to debrief what happened and what could have happened. Experiences like this can assist them in navigating relationships within and outside of school.
Penn State University offers a program through their Extension programs entitled: I can be a leader! Leadership fun for children. This program is intended to do the following: “boost self esteem, improve public speaking, identify their strengths and weaknesses, develop organizational skills, and work with others” (“I Can be a Leader!,” n.d.). This example provides a starting point in developing programs that for differing age groups that could be included in the school setting.
The world needs leaders. Schools, communities, government, and churches all need leaders. The potential for leadership needs to be recognized, nurtured, and provided a safe place to be practiced. Schools are the right place for leadership training to begin.
I can be a leader! Leadership fun for children. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/programs/betterkidcare/knowledge-areas/environment-curriculum/activities/all-activities/i-can-be-a-leader-leadership-fun-for-children
Schneider, F., Gruman, J., & Coutts, L. (Eds.). (2012). Applied social psychology (Second ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.