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Welcome to a new series titled: Questions to help you start a student leadership team. My goal with these posts is to provide some thoughts and questions to work through as you start a student leadership team. Makes sense, right? You may not agree, and that’s okay! Leave a comment and let me know.

“I just don’t have any leader quality students.” 

“I don’t think they would get it.”

“I don’t have any seniors, how can I start a leadership team?”

At one point or another, all of these thoughts have crossed my mind when trying to decide whether or not to start a leadership team. Then I had a break through.

My job is not to build great leaders. My job is to maximize the leadership potential in front of me.

Do you see the difference?

If I think my job is to build great leaders, then I naturally want to start with highly capable students. Students who are leading already, or are popular, or mature. Eventually the checklist of what we’re looking for grows cumbersome.

If I think my job is to maximize the leadership potential of the students in front of me, then I want to start at a different place-with students who are willing.

Oops, spoiler alert. But let me say it again in a different way so you can catch it.

When it comes to developing leaders, willingness beats talent.

If a student has a natural inclination towards leadership but is unwilling to grow, guess what? You’re going to beat your head against the wall trying to help them grow. You can provide opportunities, but at the end of the day, we do not get to make decisions for those around us. We are not puppet masters. 

If a student, however, is willing to grow as a leader, then the game changes. Their willing desire to grow and to make the most of a situation will repeatedly result in progress you cannot imagine. With a willing student, you can provide opportunities and watch them respond in ways you cannot imagine. 

I cannot overstate this enough. If you’re looking to start a leadership team, or even help a few students grow in their understanding of leadership, look for willingness to make a difference (not willingness to have a title).

There’s an implied understanding here: everyone can be a leader. The degree of influence we have on people around us will vary from person to person, but everyone has the potential.

One last word: of course, a student who has both willingness and a natural inclination to leadership is the ideal. I would never argue against talent, but I will always argue against talent alone. 

My name is Wes, and this is my leadership hot take.


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