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children leaders, leadership

Teaching leadership: Helping children become leaders and develop strong communication skills

Teaching leadership skills is something every parent hopes to instill in their children. After all, helping children become leaders has many advantages. Kids that develop into leaders generally have a strong sense of self-esteem. Self-esteem provides kids with confidence and the drive to excel.

children leaders, leadership

Kids that develop into leaders generally have a strong sense of self-esteem. (Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels)

As we gear up for the back-to-school season, parents and children alike are saying goodbye to summer and preparing for the changes ahead. After over a year of virtual learning and hybrid classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have announced the return to in person learning. Returning to the in-person classroom will be a change for many, especially children who were young or new to school when the pandemic began.

However, many children are also eager to return to school. Sure, it’s bittersweet saying goodbye to summer, but being around peers again and having daily structure is something many children secretly miss, especially after such turbulent and unpredictable times. In addition to the structure and social aspects of in person learning, school also provides children with the opportunity to take on leadership roles, from leading class discussions and projects to taking on roles in extracurricular clubs and sports, these activities help strengthen and develop those crucial leadership skills. However, school is only one of the many avenues through which children can develop these skills. Perhaps more crucial, is what they are learning at home.

Nurturing and developing leadership skills at home

Many people may wonder: what makes some kids grow up to become great leaders while others grow into adulthood lacking the ability to organize a game of kickball?

Experts argue that certain children are natural born leaders. Some kids are born with an innate ability to take charge and execute on a vision they conceive in their minds. But those same experts also agree that leadership skills can be learned and need not be reserved for the lucky few born with the leadership gene. It is possible to develop leadership skills within all kids – and the earlier the lessons begin, the earlier they develop their leadership style.

teaching leadership, parenting,

You don’t have to wait for a certain age to begin teaching leadership. In fact, the earlier the lessons start, the earlier children will develop leadership skills. (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

Helping children become leaders has many advantages. Kids that develop into leaders generally have a strong sense of self-esteem. Self-esteem provides kids with confidence and the drive to excel.

Leaders also develop strong communication skills. As these young leaders accept greater and greater responsibility, they are required to interact with others. These interactions develop within them stronger-than-average communication abilities that assist them in other aspects of their lives.

teaching leadership

Children become leaders by learning from example. (Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels)

Finally, developing leaders acquire the skill of negotiation and learn how to work with others. As these emerging leaders increase their leadership activity they are placed into situations that require collaboration and compromise – skills that are greatly valued.

  1. Make Leadership Part of Your Child’s Vocabulary: “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” —Peter Drucker

If you’re going to help your child develop as a leader you need to describe what a leader is and does. The best way to do that is to make leadership a term that is used frequently to describe favorable traits. Conversations about leadership can originate when talking about the things other students did at school, the traits of characters in their favorite television shows, or the examples described in books they read or had read to them. Highlight leadership traits such as honesty, perseverance, kindness, creativity, intelligence, etc.

  1. Give Your Child Opportunities to Learn and Exercise Leadership: “All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.” – Albert Einstein

Leadership opportunities begin the moment at which your child begins to interact with other children. Beginning with preschool, through Boys Scouts/Girl Scouts to AYSO and Little League, and into cheerleading and science club – every day provides a venue for your child to put to use your leadership lessons. Be sure to observe as much as possible and provide feedback one-on-one. Remember to praise your child for exercising leadership.

  1. Set a Leadership Example: “Example is leadership.” – Albert Schweitzer

Leadership is best taught by example. Be sure to share your leadership experiences with your child. When possible, bring your child along to view you in action! If you volunteer at the local library, belong to the local Rotary Club or serve as an elected official, share your leadership experiences with your child to give your child something that links your conversations to the real world.

  1. Go Easy on Your Child: “Patience is necessary, and one cannot reap immediately where one has sown.” – Soren Kierkegaard

As your child gets older, peer pressure increases. While all parents wish that children would avoid any form of peer pressure, the reality is that they live in a very difficult world. As a parent developing a leader, what is most important is to monitor your child, communicate openly and describe their actions that may be inconsistent with the acts of a leader. Refer to your conversations regarding the traits of leaders. These conversations may become more difficult as your child grows and becomes more independent. Have faith and trust that your child will respond appropriately when outside of your influence.

You might be interested: How MiLegasi’s founder deals with resilience in children during COVID-19

Latina leader Sara Peña impacts young lives through community empowerment

Sara Peña is a Newark native working toward community empowerment. She strives to empower Latinos, especially the youth, through advocacy, legislature, and mentorship. She is currently the Director of the Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development in the NJ Department of State, as well as the founder of the Boys to Leaders Foundation.

Community awareness 
community empowerment

Sara Pena, Director, Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development at NJ Department of State.

Born and raised in Newark, NJ, Sara has always had immense pride and passion for her community. As the daughter of immigrant parents, from Ecuadorian and Dominican descent, she witnessed first hand the hardships faced by immigrants. 

“I saw a lot of things that would frustrate me in regards to how my mother was treated just because she didn’t speak the language,” says Sara. 

As children, she and her sister would try to share as much information as possible with their parents, but the language and cultural barrier still made many things difficult. 

“Resources were limited and mentors were unheard of, at least to me,” Sara explains. 

Sara soon took on the “adult” role and with that came an awareness of the many complicated issues affecting her family and community. This awareness motivated her to make a change and become an advocate and leader for other Latinos. 

 

Community empowerment

After graduating from college, Sara returned to Newark to volunteer with various local organizations and focus her efforts on community empowerment. She soon began working with organizations like Leadership Newark, whose mission is to be a catalyst to engage, empower, connect and improve the network of community and civic leaders as they each commit to build, strengthen, and serve for the common good.

Sara Pena addressing a business audience (Photo courtesy Sara Pena)

Another amazing organization Sara became a part of and President was LUPE Fund -Latinas United for Political Empowerment. LUPE’s focus is to educate, empower, and engage Latinas to promote leadership and civic service. The organization also collaborates with other women’s and children’s organizations on issues of common interest, such as health and education, in order to advance the Latino community. 

Volunteering with these organizations exposed Sara to women who looked just like her in executive positions, having families and successful careers, and making a positive change within the community. But what really attracted Sara the most about these women was the advocacy work they do as leaders throughout the state. 

As President of LUPE, Sara supported multiple Latinas in both political sides to run for office in NJ (Photo courtesy Sara Pena)

“They worked tirelessly to ensure we had representation in the legislature and our voices would be heard,” says Sara. “My passion was policy work and I was able to explore more of it in the role of an executive  board member and later in 2017 become the President of the only Latina statewide organization in New Jersey! Here was this little girl from Newark NJ now leading one of the most powerful organizations for women in the state.” 

Having other women as role models and mentors propelled Sara forward on her own journey. One of her biggest struggles early on was simply believing in herself. 

“Others believed and saw something in me that not even I could see,” she says. 

Once she began to surround herself with these like-minded individuals, she began to see just how much potential was within herself. 

“I knew if I wanted to make a change it started with me and everything else would fall into place.” 

Youth mentorship 

As a community leader, Sara’s mission to improve the quality of life and the empowerment of the state’s Hispanic community. One major way in which she has been doing this is through her organization the Boys to Leaders Foundation

Launched in 2013, the Boys to Leaders Foundation empowers and motivates young men by providing leadership training, educational programs, and positive personal and professional development. 

Sara was inspired to create the foundation for her son, Anthony. 

“I saw there was a lack of positive role models that looked like him and as a single mother it was very difficult for me,” she says. 

Knowing first hand the importance and impact of role models and mentors, Sara felt it was an imperative need within the community. 

“It is our job to provide opportunities and guidance to the next generation of leaders,” says Sara. “Mentorship changes lives. We must offer them hope, expose them to bigger and greater things outside of what they are used to. Allow our young people to have choices!” 

Through the organization, Sara has been able to see first hand the amazing impact of mentorship and opportunities. A few years after the launch of the organization, Sara was approached by a young man who was then in his senior year of college. He told Sara that if it had not been for the conference he attended in 2014, he would never have known he could apply to Rutgers Newark, join the Honors Society, and travel abroad to study. The conversation went on for about a half-hour and the two decided to continue meeting at least once a year to see how he was doing. 

“He was so grateful and couldn’t stop thanking me for starting the organization,” says Sara, remembering the moment. “Every so often I get these beautiful reminders that the blood, sweat, and tears I have put into this organization is certainly worth it.” 

The organization continues to impact young lives through its various programs and events. Their various partners include: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties, AspiraNJ in Newark, Newark Public Schools, New Jersey Garden State Scholars Program and many more. 

 This year the foundation is hosting their 8th Annual Latino Youth Leadership Conference in partnership with Dr. Diane Hill from Rutgers University –Newark Campus. Additionally they conduct various events throughout the year to educate the parents and youth on topics that are important to them such as Immigration and Financial Aid Workshops. 

“We bring families together so they understand the important role they have in a young man’s life,” says Sara. 

Sara’s goal now is to expand the work of the foundation statewide. 

community empowerment

Members of LUPE – Latinas United for Political Empowerment (Photo courtesy of Sara Pena)

You might be interested: Pitch competitor Tennille Ortiz empowers youth through cake design
Self-empowerment  

Throughout Sara’s years as a professional and community leader, she has learned many lessons about self-empowerment and success. For other Latinas who are looking to start a business or make a career change, she offers 5 tips to live by: 

Be fearless 

Overcoming your fears and getting started is noble, but the true tests of a fearless entrepreneur will be constant, from initiating a conversation at a networking event, severing ties with a partner who is causing harm to the venture, and perhaps failing. One who can fail miserably and not be scared to dust themselves off and try again and again until they are successful is truly fearless. This also applies to starting a career or restarting your next career change.

 Understand finances

Sara Pena has received multiple awards for her community empowerment service (Photo Courtesy of Sara Pena)

Learn how to make your money work for you. Get a coach! Attend a financial literacy workshop 

Grow Personally

Know your strengths and weaknesses and know who to put where in order to make your business a success. You should always seek out ways that work best for you to grow in different areas of one’s life. Whether it is personal or professional development in the end, it all comes full circle. 

Build and Nurture Relationships/Partnerships

All types! (May also come in handy when you are looking for babysitters)

 Self Care

Love Yourself most of all! If you can’t look at yourself in the mirror and be happy with what you see, how can you market yourself/product into the success it should be. Stay healthy, exercise, yoga, mediate…..make the time. Put on a little lip gloss/red lipstick!

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

― Maya Angelou