Organizations Can Develop Youth Leaders. Here’s How. - By Amy Colett

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Leadership skills prepare youth to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood. By cultivating leadership in youth, organizations can empower young people to achieve their own goals and to motivate their peers through leading by example.


However, Mass Mentoring Partnership knows youth leadership doesn’t just happen. Organizations that want to cultivate leadership skills in adolescents must be intentional about the ways they incorporate leadership skill-building into their programming. These ideas will help organizations engage youth of all ages in leadership development.

Model Strong Leadership

Before organizations can teach youth about leadership, they need to model it. Entrepreneur explains modeling leadership skills builds credibility and leaves a mark on impressionable youth. These are the key ways organizations can model leadership skills for youth:

  • Emphasize perseverance: Instead of shielding youth from disappointment, model how to handle failure gracefully.

  • Teach planning skills: Let children take charge of their own plans. When children make their own plans and their own mistakes, they learn from experience.

  • Demonstrate the art of compromise: Teach children how to negotiate and make a case for the things they want.

  • Let them speak for themselves: Give children the opportunity to use their voice in little ways and they’ll feel more confident using it in big ways.

  • Consider what you’re doing in your personal life that demonstrates leadership traits; consider joining a group like Toastmasters if you need to work on making your own voice heard. Perhaps your plans have been on hold; go back to school to achieve your career goals, or complete that reading challenge you enrolled in months ago. 

Build Age-Appropriate Leadership Skills

Preschoolers may not be reading the latest leadership literature, but children can still learn a lot about leadership from an early age. Here are the leadership traits that We Have Kids notes even young children can learn:

  • Integrity is about doing what you say you will do and holding true to your values.

  • Along with integrity comes openness, or a willingness to listen, learn, and admit when you’re wrong.

  • Courage and confidence are easy for kids to understand, but can be hard for adults to model. Give children opportunities to make decisions and take risks to instill courage.

Make Leadership Fun

Older children can dive even deeper into leadership development activities. Team-building activities are particularly effective at engaging middle and high schoolers in leadership development. Try these types of team-building activities:

  • The human knot: This classic game involves standing in a circle and locking hands, then attempting to untangle as a unit.

  • Escape rooms: Organizations with a budget can organize an escape room activity where youth have to work together using their problem solving skills to get out.

  • Silent line up: This no-prep game has participants line up by an unspoken characteristic to see how they coordinate when they can’t communicate.

Provide Advanced Youth Leadership Opportunities

As youths grow into young adults, organizations should look for opportunities that prepare them to become the adult leaders of tomorrow. Here are three ways organizations can support youth in taking their leadership skills to the next level:

  • Youth organizing: Encourage youth to plan and implement an advocacy initiative that addresses an issue relevant to their peer group.

  • Serving on boards: A youth position on an organization’s governing board is a great way to include the youth voice and nurture young leaders.

  • Youth councils: To further improve representation, form a youth council that advises on matters important to their members.


It’s never too soon to start cultivating leadership skills in youth. From an early age, organizations can model leadership skills and instill the skills children need to grow up confident. And as they do, your organization can be there providing youth with the resources and opportunities they need to become the great leaders of tomorrow.

Join the Mass Mentoring Partnership movement to get the resources you need to ensure a bright future for our youth!