I was scrolling through Facebook this weekend and saw a post that made me raise my eyebrows. It was a picture of a group of seniors and the statement was something along the lines of “these seniors are ready to be the leaders of their school.”
I think the sentiment behind the posting of the photo was right, but I would push back a little.
Leadership doesn’t show up when the title shows up. Leadership runs like a current beneath the surface, and a title helps bring the current to the surface.
Those students aren’t leaders because they are seniors in high school. They are seniors in high school. Granted, being a senior puts you in positions to lead. Being a senior gives you a level of gravitas to step up and lead. Being a senior allows you the potential to have more influence. But being alive longer (than younger students) doesn’t automatically mean you’re a leader. It just means you’ve been alive longer.
Maybe what I push back on the most is the idea that you have to be a senior to lead. I didn’t believe that when I was in school. In fact, I was not taught that. I was taught the opposite.
At my home church, starting my freshman year, we had a vacancy of leadership, so I found ways to step up. I didn’t wait to have the title. I was given the opportunity and did the best I could.
I’ve seen this play out in the lives of other students. The strongest leaders are the ones who, in the absence of leadership, step up. Perpetuating the thought that “now you’re a senior, you’re a leader” communicates to juniors that they have not yet arrived. Or that a freshman doesn’t stand a chance.
Here’s what I would say: senior year provides a sense of urgency to lead, and that’s completely natural. But, if we aren’t teaching students to step up and lead as middle school students, as freshmen or sophomores or juniors, then when the title of senior arrives, they will be in a sink or swim situation.
If you work with students, find ways to provide opportunities for them to expand their leadership influence. Let’s help students learn to take a stand regardless of their age. Then, when they become seniors, they will have been trained to make the most of their title.
But if you are alive, let me challenge you: If you’re waiting for your “senior year” (literally or figuratively), stop waiting and find a way to step up and lead today.