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Leadership: Seven Leadership Essentials

From the Center for Creative Leadership

Everyone wishes we had the essentials of great leadership early on in our lives, careers.  Some may have, some did not.

Such sentiments are common. But, you might be surprised to hear a 15-year-old say that leadership lessons would have been helpful in junior high!

“Learning to lead is a lifelong journey,” says CCL’s Joel Wright. “The lessons and themes of effective leadership apply at all stages of life.”

Wright, who works in CCL’s Innovation group with youth and young adult programs, sees this firsthand. One of CCL’s initiatives, a leadership and mentoring curriculum for the YMCA Black and Hispanic Achievers Program in Greensboro, NC focuses on…

Seven Leadership Essentials:

    Who am I?

Self-awareness as leadership development involves understanding who you are, how you think and areas of strength and weakness. It also means looking at the way others respond to you, the effect you have on others, and how you connect with social groups.

    What is authentic leadership?

Who are the everyday leaders around you? What are their traits or actions that you respect? What about you can you use or develop to be an authentic leader? In the YMCA program, teenagers decide what kind of leadership legacy they want to leave at their high school. Have you thought about your leadership legacy?  have you thought about how you can impart that knowledge on your student-athletes?

    How does leadership exist in teams?

Young people often think of team leadership in terms of sports; CCL helps them see that it’s about working well with others in all facets of their lives. With adults and youth, they talk about the ability to establish direction, alignment and commitment among team members and within organizations.

    How do I communicate?

Words are powerful. Communication is a two-way process. Listening is essential. These points are new to many young people—and often forgotten by many older ones.  Learn to listen and to utilize “Quality” listening.  Use a “6-count” rule before responding when a person is finished speaking.  it will sh ow them you are intently listening to their words and you won’t interrupt them.

    What do I do with conflict?

The ability to respond effectively to conflict—and even find value in it—is an underrated leadership skill. You, like the YMCA students, can learn by exploring key questions—What is conflict? How do I handle it? How did it go? How did it help?—and identifying conflict “hot buttons.”

    How do my values affect my actions?

Values influence actions, either explicitly or as a hidden force. Take time to reflect. What are your values? How well do your values align with your actions? Are they shared by the people around you? How can you impart your values on your student-athletes?  What steps can you take to live and act in accordance with your values?

    What’s my vision?

The YMCA students are asked to look into their future and ask, What do I want my life to be at age 25 and how will I get there? How will we help them get there?

If you’re well past that quarter-century mark, that vision may seem too narrow, but that’s a 10-year plan for high-schoolers! What’s your vision for the next 10 years?

“When young people have the chance to see themselves as leaders, they have something powerful to build on as they go to college or enter the workforce,” says CCL’s Wright. “As adults, we also need to revisit core leadership themes.”

Wright notes that a “back-to-leadership-basics” approach has been particularly powerful for many experienced, successful leaders who have seen their jobs, businesses, family life and personal goals shaken as a result of the current recession.

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