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Explaining a higher form of leadership to a high school student

“I really don’t have a leadership role this year,” the 4-H’er explained to his panel of three interviewers.

His dad was a club leader. They’d talked about the son not taking an office in the 4-H club in this the son’s senior year in high school. He’d already held most of the club offices. The father and son thought it was time to involve younger 4-H’ers. He said he was helping the new officers learn their roles. That he probably was a role model for the younger members.

This high school student was unassuming and terribly honest. I suspect he’d dreaded being asked about leadership in the project awards interview because he was certain he was not exhibiting leadership this year.

I told him I believed it was a higher form of leadership he exhibited…to step aside, to mentor younger members and to be a role model. His response? “Thank you.”

Sometimes in the interviews of high school and entering college freshmen students, I worried about how leadership had been explained to them. That it doesn’t have to involve being elected or selected for a special position. That it doesn’t mean doing everything on your own.

And then I found the few
They told me leadership means responsibility, listening to others, evaluating why plans failed, being role models, learning as well as teaching, involving others, adapting as needed, passing on roles to others.

One student told us she thought there was a misconception that being a leader means you take charge. She emphasized a leader works with others and makes sure everyone is involved.

Indeed, I believe she had leadership right. It’s putting civility in the equation. A true leader works with and empowers others to reach mutual goals.