Leadership is one of the most important and valued skills anyone can develop, but it can be one of the hardest skills to teach.
Often if an adult is involved in a team activity with kids, the adult has a tendency to take over and simply tell the kids what to do or how to play.
While demonstrating good leadership is one of the aspects of teaching it, this ignores one of the most important parts of learning any new skill – hands on experience.
Most people learn best by doing, and leadership is no different. The best way to teach kids leadership and to help them develop leadership skills, is to allow them to lead.
Provide Kids Opportunities for Leadership
If the desired goal (or one of the desired goals) of a team activity is to teach leadership, then kids must be allowed the chance to lead.
The best way to accomplish this goal is for the supervising adult to designate one of the kids as the leader for the team activity.
The designated leader would be the only one allowed to communicate with the adult if any questions need to be asked or if any clarification is needed.
In return, the adult should speak only with the designated leader and have them pass on anything to the rest of the group.
This forces the participants to look to the designated leader for instructions, support, or advice instead of the adult.
The designated leader will be given a chance to develop their leadership skills, and the other participants will be given the opportunity to see that a kid – one of their own – can lead.
Allow Different Kids to Lead
If the activity is long enough, or if multiple activities will be taking place, give different kids the chance to act as the designated leader.
This provides experience and leadership training for as many kids as possible, maximizing the impact of the team activity.
In addition, the more kids that can experience what it’s like to lead a group, the more of an appreciation they will have for the difficulties of leadership and the more respect they will have for future leaders.
There’s Still Some Teaching to Do
Allowing kids the opportunity to lead is a great way to begin the process of teaching leadership, but there’s more to it than that.
Once the activity is complete, the adult should have a conversation with all of the participants and discuss the leadership style of the designated leader as well as the leadership choices that were made.
The leadership style should be discussed, along with possible alternate ways to communicate with the team.
Did the leader involve the group or did they give orders?
- Did the leader make sure everyone had the opportunity to participate?
- Was the leader open to input from others?
- Did the leader communicate effectively with the group?
- Did the leader discuss decisions with the group or just tell people what to do?
It can also be useful to have a general discussion about leadership with the entire group as well. Discuss how the kids view leadership:
- What does a good leader need to succeed?
- What characteristics or traits does a good leader possess?
- How important is leadership to accomplishing a goal? Why?
Team activities provide an excellent opportunity to teach kids leadership skills. Through a combination of discussion and practical application, kids are given a much wider and deeper understanding of what it means to be a leader, what it takes to lead, and the importance of leadership to accomplishing goals.