Cultivating Leaders at Home and School: New Study Shows All Can Learn to Lead

Are great leaders born or made?

A new study suggests it may be both. The study that followed 106 students from the age of one through 29 found those who became leaders in their adult lives shared some common traits, but that educators and parents can also encourage leadership in students. The study hopes to help educators and parents identify leaders early on, as well as help identify which behaviors to look for and support, according to “From Math Helper to Community Organizer: New longitudinal studies identify key factors in leadership development.”

In the study, leadership was defined as: “taking on the role of and engaging in the process of influencing others toward a common endeavor, goal or cause, regardless of designated formal position.” The study found the following to be characteristics or qualities in children who went on to become adult leaders:

  • Students who engage “tend to become more extroverted, socially engaging, and become everyday leaders.” Also, children who pushed their parents or educators to let them be involved in activities were more likely to become leaders, no matter the type of activity. Equally important was parents’ supporting children to pursue their interests by showing genuine interest.
  • There was “a little overlap” between having a high IQ and strong inner motivation, but the study showed those who were “motivationally gifted” were much more likely to become leaders. “We have fallen into a culture that tests and labels—and we need to be creating people who are visionaries, who are risk takers, who know how to adopt a challenge and pursue it over time,” says Carol S. Dweck, psychology professor at Stanford.
  • Students who were comfortable with ambiguity and could boldly go forth, comfortably, without a map were able to negotiate new territory as young adults and successful professionals.

How can we cultivate leadership in schools and at home? Schools must become “’intentional and purposeful’ in creating opportunities for students to connect with real-world experiences, to fail and pick themselves up, and to connect with passions they can pursue and master, according to Tim Magner, executive director of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. At home, parents have to let students explore, stumble fall and get back up again.  Hold your tongue and your tension as your child asserts himself and suffers his own setbacks which will strengthen him for life’s inevitable challenges.  School and home have to promote messy, creative and open-ended learning where students have choice, take risks and discover their own inner talents and interests.

As colleges and the workforce get more selective, more people choose to become entrepreneurs, and we search for more innovators to pave the way in the 21st century, leadership will continue to be a valued skill in any field. Through the study of both historical and modern day leaders, LifeBound’s Leadership for Teenagers, helps students develop 21st century leadership skills that compliments core curricula presented in high school classrooms. Visit the LifeBound website to find out more about how you can cultivate leadership at home, in class and around the world.


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