There are many young people who do not identify with a traditional template of leadership – the one with the person at the top or the front, making decisions and telling everyone what to do. Many kids especially do not want this role. It’s not cool, it’s not comfortable and doesn’t feel right to them. I feel the same way. The traditional template is stale and outdated. We live in a new world that needs new thinking and new leadership ideas.
Our job is to help kids re-frame it, take it back and make it their own. Show them another way, use another word, whatever it takes. There is so much negative charge attached to the word “leadership”. But when a young person realizes that their ability to be self-reliant, or to help another person is actually demonstrating leadership, it’s always surprising to them. “What! Really? I’m a leader? That was leadership? I can do that”.
Creating these opportunities for kids is simple: Get a group of them outside in a beautiful place with a specific mission to accomplish. It’s the ultimate setting for the elusive, ‘leadership spirit’ to come out. I see it all the time on TAASC trips. The trick then is to coach students to see it and then once they find it, how to use it so it feels natural to them.
By offering a new way to view Leadership students learn that leadership is a mindset – a way of seeing the world and looking for an opportunity to contribute and create value. At TAASC we teach our students to look for these moments and then to practice and experiment with them. Trying on as many styles of leadership as possible is the only way for them to find a personalized and inner-connected fit.
The truth is you can lead from everywhere – the back, the front, the middle, the outside or inside. It doesn’t matter, what matters is choosing to be the person that can make a difference, and choosing to help other people. As Simon Sinek says, “Leadership is a choice, a choice to look after the person to the left of us and the person to the right of us.”
“TAASC was different because it pushed me so much harder than any other sport or group I was ever in. You have so much personal responsibility — bring your own clothes, your own food, your own water — but you have the double responsibility of being a part of a group and helping out your group mates and being aware of what they may need. That amount of responsibility has made me be a better person in other groups I have joined.”
-Freya Pollock, Age 21
Clark University student
Alumni 10 years in TAASC