Future skills: How to encourage kids’ natural leadership abilities

Leadership is a skill that will stand our children in good stead one day, regardless of the career they end up in. But how can schools and parents foster and nurture leadership? A teacher explains.

This is the second article in our exciting new series Future Skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where we prepare children, and parents, for the future by highlighting the key soft skills they’ll need to thrive in an increasingly automated, digitised world. 

Leadership is undoubtedly one of the most important skills a child can develop to help them succeed later in life. As a professional with strong leadership skills and an entrepreneurial bent, they will have the characteristics necessary to build a solid foundation for themselves and their careers. 

But how can a school encourage leadership skills? The Future Nations school curriculum includes a leadership and entrepreneurship programme which covers the following elements:

  • Personal leadership capabilities such as self-awareness and psycho-social stability,
  • People leadership which is a focus on leading others and leading teams; and
  • Entrepreneurship. 

Thato Malele of Future Nations School in Johannesburg shared her experience and insight into teaching these skills to her students with us.

Also see: Future skills: 7 essential skills your kids should learn at school to succeed in the future

What 21st century skills should your kids should be learning? Share your opinion with us, and we could publish your letter. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

How to teach leadership in the classroom 

In the programme, “every student is seen and treated like a leader and as such every student is given opportunity to show their leadership skills through activities of reflection, goal setting and community development,” Thato explains. 

“The intention of the programme it to create young leaders that will lead in any sphere. Part of the programme asks students to look at existing leaders, extract their good qualities and their blind sides and then compare these to their own style of leadership.

“A process named Protocol is used by the whole school where projects and pieces of work are critiqued. This allows for a safe space to communicate what is good, and also a safe space to communicate what can be improved in their own work as leaders.”

Also see: “Just teach your kids how to do stuff!” – 10 Practical skills every parent should impart on their child

The school culture

The Leadership class is used to set the tone for the culture of the school, she told us, to create a safe environment that pushes for excellence.

“Learning is social and emotional,” she explains. “Children develop skills based on their interactions with their peers, their immediate family and any personal challenges that they are forced to overcome.”

Thato says it is unlikely that leadership characteristics will be learnt incidentally, merely through interaction, although it is possible for children to learn elements of these skills as they navigate their way through life.

Psycho-social stability is facilitated by teachers at these schools through mentorship, where students are given a ‘pillar’, a mentor teacher, who keeps close contact with their wellbeing. An hour a week is taken for all students to meet with their mentor teachers, who keep close contact with parents and/or guardians, and where necessary they do home visits.    

Students are given time to set targets for themselves within the teaching space, which communicates the importance of goal setting to their lives. Goals are set for the immediate future, such as activities to be completed within the hour, and the real life consequence of not finishing work might be added homework, or having a ‘working’ break with the teacher. 

Reflection is also encouraged as an ‘exit’ to Leadership lessons were students are asked to reflect on their own learning, their ability to achieve the targeted lesson activities and where they think they could need a little more help from the teacher. This also allows for self-awareness. 

Also see: 7 ’21st Century Skills’ your kids should be learning

How parents can get involved  

“It is a huge task to attempt to facilitate a child’s psycho-social stability,” Thato says, “and so to genuinely go about achieving such stability at school involves the child’s caregivers and family nucleus communicating concern for more than just the child’s academics, but also behaviour and general wellbeing.”

Thato encourages parents to initiate discussions like ‘How was your day?” paired with reflective questions like “How could you have made it better/done better?” to help their children to practise self-awareness. 

She explains how parents can also just talk to their child, about anything. “Share your own weaknesses and learnings without burdening them with finding a solution. Just a light discussion about how you might have missed something at work and how you plan on improving it,” she says. 

Admitting your own shortfalls and displaying your will to improve helps your child understand that they are not any less capable of success because of their own short falls, when even their hero guardian can admit to their mistakes, but still be great.  

Chat back:

What 21st century skills should your kids should be learning? Share your opinion with us, and we could publish your letter. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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