Looking to help your students grow as leaders and develop leadership skills? As students grow older, there is a certain amount of responsibility placed on their shoulders. Whether they have “official” leadership positions or are simply the oldest cohort on campus, they need to understand the importance of their roles as student leaders and the qualities they need to possess.
That’s where leadership activities come into play as part of social and emotional learning in elementary school. We could debate all day about whether good leaders are born or made, but the teachers on the Teach Starter team have all seen students grow into leaders throughout the school year!
What Makes a Good Leader?
Being a student leader is about more than just showing a new kid the ropes in the classroom. It is about becoming an independent thinker who understands how to work as part of a team and positively affect those around them.
While leadership skills can come naturally to some, research shows that anyone, even young children, can learn and develop leadership qualities when they are explicitly taught and given opportunities to lead. If you subscribe to the idea of constructivism (which our teacher team does!), then you believe that kids can develop their leadership skills over time by applying past knowledge into new ways of understanding the world.
So, what should we be teaching our students to unlock their leadership potential?
This Leadership Qualities – Poster Pack includes posters highlighting 9 qualities that make a great leader. Print your own copies and post them in the classroom to help your students understand how they can be at their best as school leaders.
It includes the following qualities of a good leader:
Communication Skills and a Trustworthy Nature
Communicating isn’t just about being a confident speaker! A good leader knows when to speak, how to speak, and also how to listen effectively. In order to inspire trust in others, students must speak with good intentions. This means speaking with honesty and kindness.
Download a “traits of a good citizen” matching activity for your classroom!
Creative and Flexible
Modeling a creative and flexible mindset is important as a student leader. A good leader is able to evaluate a situation quickly and come up with the best course of action. And if that action doesn’t provide the best results, a good leader is able to adapt and change their course to incorporate new ideas and innovations.
Good leadership is not about being in charge; it’s about supporting those you are leading. Student leaders take responsibility for their actions and choices. If something goes wrong, they don’t blame others or make excuses. Instead, they take responsibility, learn from it, correct it, and continue moving forward. When leaders succeed, they are humble, recognizing the efforts of those around them.
Motivated and Positive
Having a positive mindset is integral to inspiring and leading others! As educators, it is important that we instill in our students a belief that whatever goal has been set can and should be accomplished, even if it seems impossible at first. This type of confidence inspires others to be positive! Talk to your students about having a growth mindset (or use some of our fun resources!) and encourage your class to motivate each other towards common goals. Being motivated and motivating others is a big part of what makes a good leader.
Committed and Leads By Example
This is perhaps the most important quality of all! A great leader leads by example. Younger students often look up to older students with awe and admiration! They closely watch and copy the behaviors of the older students. A good student leader understands their responsibility as a role model to the younger students.
Not only do they recognize this responsibility, but a good leader is excited about the opportunity to lead and guide others! They would never ask anyone to do anything that they are not willing to do themselves.
Leadership Activities for Kids
So you know what makes a good leader … but how do we help our students develop all these great leadership skills? Here are some of our favorite social and emotional activities that are all about leadership.
All About Me
At the beginning of the school year, you may have handed your students a template to fill out about themselves and encouraged them to trade with a classmate to learn about their similarities and difference. Did you realize this common icebreaker activity was a leadership activity too?
Simply getting kids to sit down and think about describing themselves is a means to get them more comfortable with their own identity, an important part of being a strong leader. You might opt to try it again, only this time ask your students to focus less on material items and more on adjectives to describe themselves.
Responding to Stress Group Skit
This social-emotional lesson requires students to be broken out into groups to perform a skit that demonstrates how to respond to stress. The students will work together to brainstorm, write, and act out their skit, giving your students a chance to practice being team players and finding their strengths in group work.
Learning to evaluate a situation and respond in kind isn’t the easiest thing for many kids. These reaction charades are a fun way to help kids develop their understanding of social cues and improve their leadership skills. Students pull direction cards and act out various reactions while their classmates guess what the student is doing.
What Makes a Leader?
In this What Makes a Leader? worksheet designed for second- and third-graders, students explain the words and actions they see leaders use and list examples of how they might model leadership at home and in school.
Looking for more ways to encourage leadership skills in the classroom? Try these resources to encourage collaboration and working as a group:
Review and reinforce eight possible roles for group work with this set of 2-in-1 reusable posters and desk cards.
Teach your social studies class about being a good citizen with a game of Citizenship Charades!
Banner image via Shutterstock/David Tadevosian