Professional Development

How to Nurture the Student Leaders in Your Classroom

Great leaders multiply their ability to influence.

You’re a teacher who is always on his/her toes. Wouldn't it be great to have student leaders in your corner? Imagine this scenario:

Small groups were digging into deep, personal issues with each other. Students were leading development activities. Students were diving into solving major, systemic problems in their school. An entire leadership retreat was happening, without us. 

This is what teachers Shanna Bumiller and Brady Faust encountered at the leadership retreat, and it's one which their own students designed. What was their secret? A leadership mindset.

Our kids have great potential to be leaders. 

Even in younger years, they can take real-world skills and make them relevant to their lives. Their learning becomes something they use to one day make the world and those around them better. They are, more often than not, our leaders.

Let's define what the leadership mindset entails. Then we'll look at tips on how to make students into student leaders.

Who Are Your Student Leaders?

According to some experts, leadership is:

“The capacity to influence others by unleashing the power and potential of people and organizations for the greater good.”—Ken Blanchard

“Executing a vision by motivating, guiding, inspiring, listening, persuading and creating resonance.”—Daniel Goleman

Leadership is knowing what the next step is. It's also having the fearlessness and commitment to take it. 

Getting back to Shanna Bumiller and Brady Faust’s student leadership experience:

  1. They realized that “great leaders multiply their ability to influence.” Student leaders will inspire other students. It’s infectious.
  2. They selected a core group of student leaders from their school population. These students didn’t necessarily have to be great at academics. They were people who had a leadership mindset potential and cared deeply about the school.
  3. This core group was trained in the leadership mindset and how to self-assess and develop their own leadership skills.
  4. The core group of student leaders then planned and implemented a workshop for training everyone in the art of leadership mindset. Over 120 signed up. Even though rocky weather, the students pushed and got the job done on their own.
  5. In the end, the most important thing that Bumiller and Faust learned was to “give students the knowledge that you care deeply for them, and provide them the platform to share their ideas and act on those convictions.”

The 5 Traits of Student Leaders

The next 5 traits of leadership mindset come from the Student Leadership Challenge. According to them, great student leaders do these things:

  1. Model the way—Personal credibility is foremost. Allow students to find their voice and affirm shared values.
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision—Imagining and envisioning a future drives leaders to inspire others and enlist them to help achieve it.
  3. Challenge the process—Thinking outside the box lets student leaders experiment, take risks, and learn from mistakes.
  4. Enable others to act—By realizing their limits, student leaders let others have a stake in a project’s success. This fosters collaboration and strengthens others.
  5. Encourage the heart—Student leaders can inspire others to overcome difficulties by taking a personal claim in their well-being. They draw people forward by recognizing and celebrating the group’s successes.

The most important key to fostering a great leadership mindset in your students is to become a leader yourself. That is, be concerned with doing the right thing rather than focusing on doing things right. Rather than systems and structures, it’s about connecting with people.

Did you know that great leaders are also great critical thinkers? It's true, and you can instill these abilities in your learners in fun and challenging ways with the tools and activities offered in The Critical Thinking Companion. It’s got everything you need and more for developing and assessing critical thinking skills in your students.