Becoming an Effective Youth Leader
You can make a difference in your school or community. It starts by focusing on your interests, learning about your leadership abilities, and looking for new and challenging activities to apply them and build your skills. Today's youth represent a new generation of leaders. You will help shape the world you live in today and in the future.
What does it take to be a good leader?
You may already have many traits that leaders possess. Anyone can be a leader if they:
- have a strong desire to take action and try new things
- embrace lifelong learning and never believe they have all the answers
- propose positive activities
- take on responsibility
- express themselves effectively
- think fast and retain composure under pressure
- demonstrate compassion and empathy at all times
- make personal contact at every opportunity
- use their imagination
- exercise good judgement
- listen to others
- can motivate others
- set priorities - put first things first
- seek creative ways to meet people halfway
Why should you become a leader?
By developing your leadership skills, you will unleash your potential. You will discover more and more ways to build on your success, and see the rewards of your efforts:
- feel a great sense of accomplishment as you help to achieve worthwhile goals
- gain confidence by involving more people to work toward a common goal
- learn more about dealing with people, challenges and difficult situations
- develop communication skills
- increase your social awareness as you learn more about school, community and global issues
- explore and build on your strengths
- broaden your experiences
So, how can you get started?
You will get the most out of activities that appeal to your interests. Set a leadership goal for yourself. You don't have to do everything at once. Start small - maybe you can only fit one or two projects into your schedule this year. Remember, the more experience you have, the easier it becomes to be an effective leader. To help you get started, here are a few projects to consider:
- in your school, look for leadership opportunities beyond the student council -- join teams, clubs or associations
- if you're on a sports team, consider taking on a greater role or helping younger children get involved in the sport
- if you're a member of a faith community, there are usually roles for youth leaders
- pick an issue you're interested in -- the environment, homelessness, child labour -- then begin to learn all you can about it by reading the newspaper, going to the library and visiting web sites
- connect with an organization that supports an issue you're interested in
- organize special events to raise awareness of important issues or celebrations, e.g. HIV/AIDS, Black History Month, United Nations Day, etc.
- find out how you can make a difference -- write letters to government officials, fundraise, share what you know with others
- learn about what other young people are doing to support the issue in your community, provincially, nationally or even internationally
- find out who is also supporting the issue -- a community leader, a person you admire, a celebrity, government officials
- join young Canadians and youth worldwide to celebrate Global Youth Service Day in April -- visit www.gysd.net for more information
- volunteer at a local community agency or food bank
- use your skills to help others -- design web sites, organize information displays, hold special events
Information is just a click away
For more information about youth leadership:
- The Global Youth ACTION Network http://gyan.tigweb.org/ - information, resources, links and solutions to promote greater youth interaction.
- Me to We www.metowe.com- founded by Craig and Marc Kielburger, an international organization dedicated to helping young people realize their potential through leadership, education and development.
- Youth Action Network www.youthactionnetwork.org - national non-profit youth organization based in Toronto that helps youth become more informed and actively involved citizens.