Common Questions about Leadership

What makes a good leader?

You may have heard the phrase “natural born leader.” While it’s true that some people are naturally good at making people like and listen to them, at Response for Teens, we believe anyone can be a good leader if they develop the right skills. These include:

  • Being a good listener. Taking the time to listen to others’ ideas, concerns, and thoughts (and responding appropriately) is essential to good leadership.
  • Being a good communicator. Great leaders clearly describe their ideas and honestly express their thoughts (without being rude).
  • Being a delegator. Don’t try to do everything yourself. A good leader knows when to delegate (assign tasks to others), which helps team members feel included and important.
  • Being calm and confident. Believe in yourself, and others will believe in you—especially in challenging situations.

For more qualities of successful leaders, check out this Huffington Post article written by a youth advisor to the United Nations.

Does being a leader mean that I have to tell people what to do?

Not all the time! Some leaders will tell others exactly what to do in certain situations. But other leaders in other situations will let their team take the lead. They may create a plan for how to handle a specific problem, but let others carry out that plan. Or they may let everyone work together equally, stepping in only to solve disagreements or make suggestions if the team gets stuck. Part of being a good leader is learning how much control to take at any given time.

I like taking charge, but sometimes people say I’m too bossy. Am I a bad leader?

No—and it’s a shame to be put down for something you enjoy doing. When this happens, it’s often because of circumstances beyond your control. Being accused of bossiness may be due to your gender or gender presentation (for instance, more feminine people are sometimes called “bossy” when they are just stating their opinion). Or it may be that others are intimidated by (or jealous of) your leadership skills, and they’re reacting defensively.

So how do you deal with it? First, try not to take it personally—and don’t ever stop being your true self. Second, if you feel comfortable talking to the person or people who called you bossy, do it. Maybe it was a misunderstanding, or maybe you can learn from each other about what you feel makes a good leader. Finally, do a quick self-check on the situation. Did you make others feel listened to and respected? Did you give them a chance to contribute their own ideas and talents? If not, maybe it’s an opportunity to hone your leadership skills further.

How do I become a leader?

As a teen, you may not yet have the opportunities that adult leaders have, like running for office or leading a business. But there are still tons of opportunities out there for you to pursue. You can acquire leadership skills by joining clubs, tutoring younger children, interning at an organization you admire, or volunteering for a cause you care deeply about.

You can also seek out the great adult leaders in your life and ask them to share advice and experiences that helped them lead well. Who knows—they might be able to find an opportunity for you, whether it’s a volunteer position, a job, or something else that helps develop your own leadership skills.

More Information

Want more information on becoming a teen leader? Interested in joining one of our leadership programs? Response for Teens offers the following resources:

  • Operation Snowball: Response for Teens' yearly weekend retreat that helps teens develop confidence and leadership skills.
  • Leadership Links: Links to other sites and organizations that offer opportunities for youth leadership, activism, and more.
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