Monday, January 23, 2012

Nurturing Student Leaders

Much has been written about leadership development.  Everyone from Tony Dungy to John Maxwell has shared their insights on how to be a good leader.  The question today is, how do we as parents nurture our children as future leaders?  Tony Dungy, in his book, The Mentor Leader states, "Mentor leaders look beyond themselves, focusing on the people they lead and where they should be going together."  It seems to me that the first priority is to look beyond ourselves and to focus on the people we are charged with leading and growing - and doing this journey with them. 

My dad was a youth pastor during my childhood years.  I clearly remember him demonstrating leadership in the home and at work.  These were many occasions when members of his youth group needed direction and guidance.  I cannot tell you exact details, but I can tell you this; he regularly met with students.  He invested his life in theirs, and showed them, through his actions, how to be Godly leaders.  I also remember him telling me over and over as a youngster, "Jim your attitude and how you respond to situations shows people a lot about you.  If you can't control yourself, you will end up causing yourself and your family a lot of pain."  He constantly worked with me, teaching me how to be a person who responded well to crises. 
  • First step - Model Godly Leadership and Appropriate Responses
As time went on, I made many mistakes and took many detours in my life's journey.  However, I never forgot the advice my dad gave.  I know this because it was the same advice I gave my children many years later.

  • Second - Encourage Risk-Taking
There is a difference between being dangerous and taking risks.  In police work, I used to tell rookie officers, "Not wearing your ballistic vest is dangerous."  The job involved taking measured risks.  Would you enter a dark warehouse and search alone - would you approach a car with a known felon inside, and on and on.  These were just a few of the risks we took.  Help your student understand the difference between Risk-taking and begin dangerous in their decision making.  Encourage them to be courageous risk-takers.  As young people grow in their ability to experience new challenges and make decisions, they learn to be leaders.
  • Third - Mistakes are Okay and Provide Character-Building Experiences
Finally,  allow your student to make mistakes.  Yes, I said it.  Allow them to fail.  Much is written about the success of Wilber and Orville Wright and their first powered flight.  However, not much is said about the many failures the Wright Brothers and others experienced along the way.  Making mistakes and learning from them is where leadership skills are developed.  I would rather know how someone works through adversity than how they are when everything is going well.  Let you student learn by making mistakes and figuring out how to get through those experiences.  That is the thing that helps hone leaders.

As you think about how to nurture your students to be leaders, please remember to pray for them.  There are many lessons they will learn on their journey and your prayers are vital.  Model Godly leadership in your daily life.  Encourage them to take risks, and allow them to fail.

Jim Bender

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