Timeless Principles In Developing Student Leaders

Who do you work with? Boomers, Busters, Millennials, Post-Millennials? There’s a lot of differences that exist between each generation. There’s also a lot of information out there to help us understand and interact with each other in the midst of those differences.

I don’t want to underestimate the importance of understanding those differences. But we have a lot in common as well. I’d like to think there are some parts of the leadership development process that are as true today as they were a thousand years ago. I’ve come up with four. In my work developing student leaders I keep these principles in mind. I consider them to be timeless. Because of that, they’re vital to any quality leadership development program.

1. Relationships are important.

The best student leadership development programs make the student the priority. Your training and teaching will connect with students more effectively when they occur within the context of relationship. You can spend a lot of time trying to get information into a student’s head. But they’ll listen and learn when you take the time to know your student’s heart. All of the data and research describing today’s student is irrelevant if it doesn’t help you connect with your student. That only occurs in relationship.

2. Story is the best way to communicate.

People always talk about the limited attention span of students. This is especially true when students are trying to stay focused during a long and drawn out lecture. Yet I’m amazed that no one seems to have difficulty sitting motionless through a 90 minute movie. Why is that? Because we love a good story. We are drawn to the elements that make a good story. I’ve heard it said that “students are to narrative like fish are to water.”

The other element of story is the open-ended nature of it’s application. A student can see him or herself in a story. A student can draw lessons from a story. A student can compare their own experience to the experience of the story.

3. Example is the best way to teach.

People do what people see. This is going to be the most helpful way for our students to learn. They need to act as apprentices – watching someone lead so they can turn around and try what they’re seeing on their own. It’s the power of modeling at work in our leadership development process.

This is why your development and practice as a leader is so crucial to effective training. You need to be leading in front of your students so they have something to refer to. You need to become the picture in their minds when they are wondering how to best lead in a given situation.

4. Leadership is necessary.

The need for leaders is not going away. It is not diminishing. There is always a need for leadership. There is especially a need for good leadership. You are not only preparing them to lead today, you are preparing them for that unique “someday.” For that moment when their experiences and growth will culminate in an opportunity that cries out for them to step forward to lead.

How are you implementing these principles within your work with students? What principles would you add to this list?

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