I think leadership is a key factor to the wellbeing of any group of any size or purpose, from a musician band to a whole country.
The leadership style, the decision-making capacity and the focusing ability of a leader are for example amongst the key factors determining how good a leader is directing a group. But one factor, as far as I am concerned, is definitely determining how good the leader is able to set a direction of a group: how that leader was made.
Made, not born
In opposition of what many may think, leadership skills are acquired, they’re not something people are born with.
Temperament and social orientation are defining if a person is extrovert or introvert, and those characteristics are hard to change, because they are the result of the natural way of being of one individual, from his or her childhood.
In opposition, leadership skills are acquired throughout the accomplishment of specific tasks and the acquisition of experiences. Whoever can be an excellent leader, only the style differs, and the kind of group suitable to that style, since additional talents are also influencing a lot: music, cooking, sports, event organization for example. Talents are countless, everyone has at least one.
The sooner the better
In those last 9 months in Norway, I have been often surprised by how young leaders are. Working with NMSU, I got the chance to integrate leader teams of many camps and events.
Kids and teenagers are introduced to leadership really early. In one of the leader meetings I have been, the youngest was as old as 11 years. That kid was responsible in some children and family camps. Small tasks like dramatizing a story in the bible, checking the cleanliness of the rooms (“snuss”), preparing the camp material, was assigned to those very young leader. That is so good for building self-confidence and initiative-taking capacity!
A step higher, I could witness once that two teenager girls of 16 years were given the responsibility of representing NMSU in the annual regional meeting of NMS Region East (Oslo), amongst the region leaders and group leaders in NMS, which were way more aged. This is just a great introduction for decision-making and a nice way of acquiring advocacy skills.
A bit later, those teenagers would be given a bigger task like organizing and making the program of camps, and given the title of main leader in important camps.
I have been in the leader team of a New Year camp organized together by NMSU and HEKTA in Mesnali, Hedmark. That team was composed of really young people, and our main leader was, 20 years old at the time. That camp was well organized despite its important size (around 100 participants) , the atmosphere and program were amazing. This shows the positivity of young leadership.
This is not of course the result of the work of just one person, but the work of a whole team which were all young leaders, led by a skilled main leader.
Praising is raising
Having young people as leaders was first unusual for me, since I come from a country were the culture is hierarchized. Sadly, young people and women in general are struggling to get leadership postions. Fear was just enough for stopping young people from taking leadership positions, such as being in the board of a choir for example.
Moreover, since the distance between leaders and followers is always big, and the age matters a lot, younger leaders are often more prompt to being criticized for every single small mistake. They are also victims of teasing by people their age, and any initiative is synonym of boasting.
This poor mentality is killing self-confidence, and youth is just negatively frightened by the idea of taking important leader positions.
I noticed that any initiative is considered and often sincerely praised in Norway. When a person accomplish small good things, people notice and honestly it. That is good for young leaders! If ever they make mistakes, they are advised in a nice way and encouraged to do more. No judgment or mean criticism.
The more egalitarian society in Norway is also a healthy environment for leadership learning. Leaders aren’t afraid of being up next to any gap they can fall down into. They therefore express fully their talent, bringing innovative ideas.
Personally, I would say that praise and support are the best things contributing to developing a leader. A nice word here and there make a person happier and help that person to blossom, like a flower exposed to gentle sunlight.