Leadership depends on the development of other positive traits such as confidence, social skills, communication skills, an interest in others, poise, creativity, work ethic, and the ability to overcome fears. Above all, a leader must be a person of action–someone who steps up while others are still thinking and debating.
Young people go through stages of being terrified of standing out. This desire to be like everyone else is rooted in one’s self-image and sense of value. Therefore, true leadership is often hard to find in high school–it’s more likely to develop during and after college.
A student who demonstrates leadership in high school attracts positive attention, often through their accomplishments and choices. They are admired by peers and adults alike, so they get selected for special roles. Opportunities that other students only dream of, and have to fight for, seem to just fall into the lap of a young person already engaged in a leadership role.
It is quite common for students who graduated from Progressive School to show such leadership in high school. We have estimated that fully one third of our graduates become the captain or president of some club or organization, ranging from sports to academics to student council, both within and beyond school. Their collective stories have made Leadership the fourth most frequently observed outcome of a Progressive School education.
What leads to developing all the qualities of leadership?
- growing up in a small nurturing environment
- having lots of opportunities for decision making
- shifting responsibilities to the child and rewarding their successes with freedoms
- requirements for public presentations in many subjects especially independent studies
Though it sounds counterintuitive, a small nurturing environment empowers children to speak up for themselves and be valued as individuals. And though these days many parents give children decision making powers, schools do not. By the time they are expected to make important decisions in high school, they are afraid to. I would argue that children are getting decision making power over things they should not be allowed to decide (what to eat, which school to go to), and are being dictated to over things they are actually able to decide (what to do first, where to sit, what to study during a free period). We, at Progressive, put the responsibility on children to make decisions, and then learn from those choices. Yes, there are some failures along the way, but it is those very experiences that lead to successes later on in life.
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