When asked who would like to serve in a leadership role in the classroom or in after-school activities, do the students really comprehend the extended effort and energy required to fulfill the responsibilities and agendas that lie ahead?
All too often an enthusiastic, young want-to-be leader will eagerly assume the coveted title only to be quickly disillusioned following several unsuccessful attempts to garner group support while trying to accomplish the given project. Personal discouragement leads to “giving up,” and (unfortunately) all future leadership opportunities are avoided based on past experiences of perceived failure.
Do we properly prepare our students for “what lies ahead” when they choose to become student leaders? Or do we simply (and randomly) pick this or that person to fill the given position? Are your leaders selected via a popularity vote, or are they chosen because of their abilities, skills, talents, and intentions?
Leadership is made up of two philosophical components:
1. Leadership is for giving.
2. Leadership is forgiving.
Many young people see a leadership position as the chance to be in charge, to tell others what to do, to delegate work, and to put them in a posture of authority. Nothing could be further from the truth. The essence of an effective leader lies in the student’s ability to serve others, to create success for the people in the organization. It is the opportunity to give, to contribute, to roll up one’s sleeves and begin moving in a positive, forward direction. Whether it is straightening the chairs, putting the books away, creating a colourful bulletin board, or working with someone on a problem, the leader is the person who does the task at hand. A leader does “what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether he or she wants to do it or not, without anybody asking.”
The second aspect of leadership centers on the concept of forgiving. When something goes awry (and it will), many young leaders want to react to the situation by reprimanding the followers for their inability to fulfill their suggestions. However, the true leader will forgive the people involved and proactively refocus his or her energies to correct the problem and quickly get back on course. Psychologically (and intellectually) we know that people do not get better by making them feel worse.
All too often, there is a tendency for young leaders to chastise those who fall short on the given assignment; nothing could be more detrimental to the trusting relationship necessary for future success in any leader/follower relationship. The solution is simple: forgive, correct, and proceed forward.
When selecting students who will be working with their peers in a leadership capacity, look beyond their group popularity, their gifts, and even their academic standing. Observe how they interact with others, and pay special attention to those who always are considerate of their fellow students and willing to serve them by going above and beyond the call of duty. These are the candidates who are most likely to succeed as leaders; they “live” the values required of every contributing leader by giving and forgiving.
Tim Lautzenheiser presently serves as Vice President of Education for Conn-Selmer, Inc. His career involves ten years of successful college band directing at Northern Michigan University, the University of Missouri, and New Mexico State University. His books, produced by G.I.A. Publications, Inc., continue to be bestsellers in the educational world. He is also co-author of popular band method, Essential Elements, and is the Senior Educational Consultant for Hal Leonard, Inc.