From very early in childhood, we’re told about the importance of leadership. We all build up a positive perception of leaders from a young age, and we learn to admire those we consider leaders. However, there are two critical questions that are often left unanswered for students: 1) How can I start learning to be a leader? and 2) How can leadership benefit me? There are many ways for students to get a start in being a leader, and I’ll do my best to highlight some of the ones I believe are the most important. As far as the rewards that leadership can offer, they are virtually limitless.

Take the Leap

First and foremost, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. A lot of people tend to think that if they want to be considered a leader, they need to aim for a high-ranking position or they need to participate in some sort of prestigious opportunity. However, this is false. I, for one, started off with a baby step. Our school has a DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) chapter that is led by a small group of officers. Last year, there were six available positions within this group, and I really wanted to start getting involved in my school. I decided to throw the net out, and I applied for and received one of the five vice president positions. While the position itself wasn’t a very significant one, it allowed me to earn roles that mattered more later on. I used this position as a credential to get myself other leadership positions, and soon enough I was selected to be on a national committee. For student leaders, building the confidence to put themselves out there for the first time—to take the first step—is one of the most important parts of someone’s leadership journey, and it’s also one of the best ways to build a snowball effect.

Just Rewards

The rewards leadership has to offer are endless. We all have topics and things we care about, which is why learning to advance and protect those things is essential. When students are able to develop their leadership abilities, it allows them to do just that and so much more. For example, for a while I’ve wanted to advocate for a holiday that reflects my religion. Every year we observe two of the most important days in our religion, and one of them usually falls during the school year. Unfortunately, we always have school on that day. I decided to start the process to get this holiday on my school calendar, and while it will probably take several years, it’s completely worth it for me. One of the main steps I must take in gaining awareness of this holiday is to communicate with state legislators. This is a task that requires a lot of leadership abilities, particularly strong communication. It’s only because I started to develop my leadership skills that I’m able to take such a large step in helping to represent my community. But, there are so many more benefits than just this.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

I know this is cliche, but teamwork really does make the dream work. In almost every leadership opportunity your students will find, they need to be able to work with other people—and this is a good thing. In fact, the ability to work with other people might be the most beneficial skill they can learn. In the future, they need to be able to not only get along with their co-workers, but productively work with teams to finish projects. They will need to be able to capitalize on not just one person’s talents, but every person in the group. Involvement in leadership will help them learn how to go about doing this. The earlier your students delve into leadership, the better they will be at working with people and the more appealing they will look to future workplaces.

High Society

Lastly, leadership will help your students progress in society as a whole. The skills that leadership teaches are invaluable. Knowing how to communicate, work in a team, manage time, and change surroundings for the better are all indispensable skills. Leadership forces students to put themselves out there and constantly communicate, which boosts their confidence. It also makes them more persuasive, as they often have to convince people to believe in what they’re outputting. Employers are always looking for people who possess leadership skills. Every job requires some sort of leadership, so I would strongly advise students get a head start by learning to be a leader at a young age.

Leadership offers many rewards to those who take the first step. Attaining the skills leadership has to offer can let your students represent their community and advocate on the topics they feel passionately about. It will teach them to cooperate with others and will help them overall advance in society. Being able to take that first step in becoming a leader is something that changed me as a person, and I really do believe it will do the same for others. —

Abdul-Aziz Khanfar is a 14-year-old student at Watson B. Duncan Middle School in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. He serves as a member of the NASSP Student Leadership Advisory Committee, and as the president of his NJHS chapter.