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Bright Futures Start with Leadership Skills Like These

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By Guest Writer: Jenna Sherman

At Mid Plains United Way, we understand the significance of helping young people develop the skills they need to succeed. Leadership is an important life skill that youth must acquire in order to mature into capable, confident adults. However, leadership skills don't come naturally to young people. Rather, leadership is a set of skills cultivated through mentorship and learning experiences. As a parent, guardian, or other authority figure in a child's life, it's up to you to impart the leadership skills that youth need to succeed in life. But how? Here are four ways that adults can help children develop the skills they need to create a brighter future.

Start with a Strong Foundation on Leadership

Can you explain what it means to be a leader? Developing a strong understanding of leadership yourself is necessary in order to teach leadership skills to youth. These leadership books are full of important leadership lessons like “Be proactive” and “Enable others to act,” making them a great starting point for anyone seeking to expand their understanding of leadership.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

What does it take to achieve your goals? This book explores the personal habits that lead to success.

The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

True leadership goes beyond the personal. To learn what it takes to influence others and create change, pick up this classic leadership read.

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be And Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown

This insightful book explores themes of self-esteem and personal growth and is a must-read for parents trying to transform their own lives as well as their children's.

Develop Organizational Skills

Organizational skills are the key to success in work, life, and leadership. Organization helps young people set and achieve goals and make positive change within communities and organizations. These are the essential organizational skills that youth need to develop.

Time management

From being prompt to scheduling ample time for homework, hobbies, and other tasks, time management is an important life skill. Daily routines and family calendars teach time management to kids.

Setting goals

It's not enough to have dreams. Children have to learn how to break big goals into manageable steps in order to turn their dreams into reality.


Kids who take initiative don't wait for someone else to change the world ‑ they do it themselves. Adults can reward self-motivation by praising effort and encouraging kids to find solutions to problems.

Attention to detail

A job well done is a job you only have to do once. Following up on homework and chores teaches children the importance of paying attention to details.

Emphasize the Importance of People Skills

Organizational skills help leaders formulate a plan, but it's people skills that get others on board to make it happen. Unfortunately, face-to-face communication skills are often lacking in the digital generation. In order to connect with and influence others, young people must learn interpersonal skills like these.

Eye contact

Eye contact allows people to connect with others, but it can be scary for some kids. Friendly staring contests make eye contact less intimidating.

Body language

Body language says a lot about how others are feeling. Putting a favorite TV show on mute and trying to decipher what characters are feeling is one fun way to teach body language.

Active listening

Having a conversation involves listening as well as speaking. Use a talking stick at the dinner table to teach the importance of waiting your turn and listening to what others have to say.

Encourage Flexible Thinking

Even the most organized, articulate, and driven kids have plans go awry. When things don't go according to plan, do your children know how to roll with the punches? Flexible thinking helps young people cope with change and find new solutions to problems, a must-have skill for anyone in life. Here's how to cultivate flexible thinking in your family.

Tell jokes

Jokes and puns are a great way to encourage flexible thinking because they get children thinking about the different ways meaning can be interpreted.

Tweak your routines

Routines and consistency are important for kids, but too much sameness may promote rigid thinking. Introduce variability into your child's routine to show that it's okay to mix things up sometimes.

Teach self-talk

Self-talk helps young people work through problems or calm themselves in frustrating situations. Teach children to take deep breaths and practice self-talk when confronted with a challenging situation instead of giving up.

The skills that young people need to succeed in adulthood start developing early. Whether your children are teens or still in their toddler years, make sure you're cultivating these leadership skills at home. With a strong foundation in leadership and practical skills, children can step into adulthood prepared for the journey ahead.

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