How does a teen acquire leadership skills?

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Q: I am the parent of a 14-year-old introvert. She is smart but doesn’t take the lead in many school activities.  How does a 14-year-old get leadership experience for the National Honor Society or the college admissions process?

A: The proverbial “chicken and the egg” question!  How do you advance and land a leadership role when often the role asks for leadership experience?

In your daughter’s situation, I found an expert in the field of youth and leadership!  Evren Gunduz, CEO and Co-Founder of Enjoy Life Education, offered, “In the case of high school students, their focus should be on passion positions rather than on leadership positions.  Passions are the areas of interest that bring fulfillment, pride, challenge, gratitude, growth, and joy.  As we share with our teens at our Leadership Academy, ‘You can’t lead others until you can first lead yourself.’  A passion position is the self-leadership role a teen takes when they engage with their passion, invest in their passion, practice their passion, grow their passion, and ultimately maximize their passion.”

Gunduz has years of experience working with young people and has noticed some who solely focus on building a resume, without regard for whether it excites or interests them.  Often these teens resent their experiences, get burned out, feel lost, and then head to post-high school opportunities, college or other, with a nice resume but no clear direction on where they want to take their lives.   Gunduz shared that he has often observed young professionals changing jobs and feeling unfulfilled.  Gunduz said “Leadership is not about being in charge of a group of people.  Leadership is about being a role model for others to emulate.  If your actions, attitudes, and achievements within your passions inspire others to do the same within their passions, then you are the best of leaders.  As a bonus, when a teen takes on a passion position, it often times leads to a leadership position, which then looks good on a resume.”  Gunduz provided some concrete examples like the teen who loves their instrument that their investment in it leads to the solo chair in the state orchestra or the teen who loves reading and journaling that their investment in it leads to them writing a book or starting a blog that positively influences others.

Gunduz runs a summer Leadership Academy for teens.  It is a week-long immersive empowerment program which educates and inspires teens to become the best version of themselves.  Teens learn about resilience, confidence, positive identity, and self-management.

When applying for the National Honor Society, as well as to any college or university, Leadership Academy graduates often list this program on their resume.  Gunduz and his staff are also called upon to provide recommendation letters during the college admissions process.