Developing Leadership in Gifted Youth
All cultures need role models and leaders. Most of us agree that professions such as medicine, technology, education, business and industry, politics, and the arts need people who can use intelligence, creativity, and critical judgment. The role of parents and educators is critical in assisting with the development of leadership attitudes and skills in gifted youth.
Leadership has been designated a talent area in federal and state definitions of gifted students who require differentiated programs, yet it remains the least discussed of the curricular areas for these students in the literature, and it is not well defined.
Characteristics of Leadership in Gifted Youth
Few gifted programs identify students with high leadership potential or incorporate leadership education into their curricula. However, many characteristics of gifted youth enable them to profit from leadership development. Those characteristics include the following:
- The desire to be challenged.
- The ability to solve problems creatively.
- The ability to reason critically.
- The ability to see new relationships.
- Facility of verbal expression.
- Flexibility in thought and action.
- The ability to tolerate ambiguity.
- The ability to motivate others.
Parents and the Development of Leadership
Preparing young people for leadership responsibility begins in the home with an enriched environment that offers opportunities for children to acquire broad interests, self-esteem, and the insights and skills that characterize leaders. Parents can provide their children with support and encouragement as they participate in a wide variety of home and community activities. Parents should encourage their children to be involved in the selection, planning, execution, and evaluation of family activities ranging from a day at the zoo to a vacation overseas. Youngsters should also be encouraged to plan, initiate, and complete a variety of self-evaluated individual projects, but these skills are not learned automatically. They must be patiently taught and modeled by parents in the home.
Discussion and debate about current events and other topics foster independent thinking and nurture leadership potential. Parents who listen openly and thoughtfully without expecting children to embrace their social, political, and economic views are demonstrating leadership characteristics. Mutual respect, objectivity, empathy, and understanding are highly valued by gifted young people, particularly those who need a safe place to test their ideas.
Opportunities for decision making at an early age will help to foster the critical reasoning skills necessary to be an effective leader. Inappropriate decisions by children and youth, although difficult for parents to accept, may enhance future decision-making skills when self-evaluated.
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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