Leadership Skills for Youth Development
Enabling Elementary Students to Become Responsible, Caring, Young Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs must have the ability to realistically evaluate their own skills and to know when to draw on the skills of others. Few entrepreneurs possess every skill needed to ensure business success. These skills must be introduced and built upon in the early grades and enhanced as students move into upper elementary, middle school, high school and beyond.
Activities within this document nudge learners out of their comfort zones by encouraging them to try and practice new things in a safe, low-pressure environment, building confidence.
Introduction – Entrepreneurs: Key Traits and Skills
Are all entrepreneurs alike?
While there are some common traits among entrepreneurs as in athletes, there are also a wide range of varying skills and talents. Some entrepreneurs, like athletes, get early exposure to opportunities for developing skills and traits for entrepreneurship while others depend solely on natural instincts. Both journeys, although very different, represent a marathon and not a sprint. Regardless of training and skills both take a lot of hard work, passion, long hours, commitment, desire and a little luck.
Again, some entrepreneurs need some formal training and skill development while others seem to have a natural flair for it. Still, others break every rule or devise very unusual approaches, but still succeed. Which do you think would be your style?
While there is no recipe for becoming a successful entrepreneur, certain skills are associated with entrepreneurial success. Here are some important ones.
Leadership Soft Skills
Entrepreneurs should be able to explain, discuss, sell and market their goods or services. It is important to be able to interact effectively with your business team. Additionally, entrepreneurs need to be able to express themselves clearly both verbally and in writing. They also should have strong reading comprehension skills to understand contracts and other forms of written business communication.
#2 Enthusiasm & Attitude
According to research, one of the most important qualities associated with successful entrepreneurship is having an attitude of passion and feeling excited about what they are doing. When people feel committed to what they are doing and when they care deeply about it, they stand the best chance of being successful at it. The heart must become an ally of the mind. Think about this popular saying:
If your mind can conceive it,
and your heart can believe it,
then you can achieve it!
The attitude of most entrepreneurs is typically that they care more about what they are doing than how much money they make. They must earn an income, of course, or they cannot continue to be entrepreneurs; however, the amount they earn often is secondary to achieving their goals.
Because entrepreneurs usually assemble a team of skilled people who help them achieve business success, they must be able to effectively develop and manage the team.
Entrepreneurs constantly interact with people, including customers and clients, employees, financial lenders, investors, lawyers and accountants, to name a few. The ability to establish and maintain positive relationships is crucial to the success of the entrepreneur’s business venture.
#5 Problem Solving & Critical Thinking
Although they may not realize it, most entrepreneurs are creative. This does not mean they paint pictures or write poetry (although they just might); rather, means they find innovative means to problem-solve. They always look for new and better ways to do things – ways that have not occurred to others. Successful entrepreneurs believe in their ability to be creative. Experts tell us that the biggest block to creativity is thinking you are not creative.
Entrepreneurs are willing to learn. They easily engage in critical thinking and are information seekers. They may already know a great deal, yet they recognize that no one knows everything, and that they can learn valuable information from others. Entrepreneurs who are not open to learning often compromise the degree of success they will be able to achieve.
In order to handle the pressures of their busy lifestyles, entrepreneurs must have the ability to manage time well and to take care of personal business efficiently. Because first impressions are so important, entrepreneurs must also pay attention to such things as personal appearance and telephone skills. For example, think of the difference in the impression made by someone who answers the phone by saying, “What’s Up?” versus saying, “Computer Support Services, this is James. How may I help you?” Additionally, entrepreneurs benefit a great deal by being aware of their own strengths and weaknesses.
Our increasingly knowledge-driven world demands people who have the education and skills to thrive in a competitive, global marketplace, and to understand the increasingly complex world in which they live. That means that in order to compete and succeed, all young people will need an effective education that prepares them for college, career, and life.
Increasingly, education through and beyond high school represent the only clear path to the achieve American Dream. Already, the vast majority of jobs in the United States are available only to high school graduates. By 2020, nearly 90 percent of all jobs will require at least a high school diploma, and two-thirds of jobs will require some form of postsecondary education.
To keep young Americans on track to attaining the education they will need throughout their lives, they need quality early childhood education, the ability to read at grade level at critical junctures such as the third grade, and an education that instills critical thinking and problem-solving skills, such as the college and career readiness standards. This preparation will make more of them college-ready, which is increasingly important each year. Two-thirds of all jobs will require some form of postsecondary education by the time today’s middle school students enter the job market.
Clearly, a high school diploma is a crucial threshold that young Americans must cross if they want any real shot at prosperous, thriving adulthood. If birth is life’s starting line, then high school graduation is life’s second starting line for success.
Through service to others and community, young Americans develop the character and competence they need to be helpful, hopeful and civically engaged all their lives, regardless of their own life circumstances. The chance to give back teaches young people the value of service to others, the meaning of community, and the self-respect that comes from knowing that one has a contribution to make in the world.
When paired with learning, serving creates a stronger commitment to school and contributes to academic achievement. Service as a form of experiential education connects the classroom to the real world and engages students in understanding contexts in which they live, learn, worship and play.
Helping to address community needs also aids in the development of cognitive skills that continue in young people through early adulthood, by improving on their critical thinking and creative problem solving abilities.
As brain skills are built, so is character. Serving builds empathy, hope for the future and a sense of personal responsibility to help others all their lives. Serving, volunteering and leadership engage young people in more developmental relationships with adults and peers.
Leadership Skills for Youth Development, is a curriculum which focuses on teaching “soft” or workforce readiness skills to youth. The curriculum is targeted for youth ages 5 to 24 in both in-school and out-of-school environments. The basic structure of the program is comprised of modular, hands-on, engaging activities that focus on six key skill areas: communication, enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, networking, problem solving and critical thinking, and professionalism. Interestingly, research suggests that these soft skills are not just important for first-time employees. They are also important for the experienced professional. Source: Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
The curriculum is also comprised of a “character” component. The traits found within this curriculum are caring, courage, fairness, honesty, integrity, responsibility, and self-control. It is a “starter list” of leadership character qualities/skills that you can add to as they learn more about leadership.
Activities within this publication were created to provide an introduction to the “basics” of soft skills. The basic foundation for the structure of these activities includes convenience, cost-effectiveness, and creativity. They were structured in such a way as to be easily incorporated into current programming and/or already established curricula.
Leadership soft skills cannot be taught in a vacuum, nor can they be acquired simply because the goal of a lesson plan notes that it should be so. Rather, they must be introduced, developed, refined, practiced, and reinforced. Did You Know Publishing is committed to providing resources regarding soft skills in a unique way that is useful, open to creativity, hands-on and fundamentally beneficial for all types of youth programs and therefore, all types of learners. The subject matter of this publication reflect that commitment.
These activities have been designed with an inclusive spirit and a structure supporting universal design for learning. They were created for all youth, regardless of disability or differences in learning style. Each exercise consists of an activity designed to get young learners thinking about, practicing, and discussing skills and character traits important for college, career, and personal success, in other words, those critical – soft skills. Additionally, these activities do not have a heavily concentration of instructional methodology or specific teaching strategies. This is purposefully designed with the instructor’s freedom to teach in mind, since it is the youth service professional who knows his/her audience best, and what might work well for one group of youth participants may not necessarily work well for another. As a facilitator, you are encouraged to adapt these activities in any way that better meets the needs and interests of your particular group.
All activities are structured as follows:
This is the basic purpose of the activity – plain and simple – and is intended to be a brief description for the instructor.
A suggested time frame is offered for planning purposes. However, as activities are altered or modified for various reasons, times may invariably change.
A list of suggested materials for the activity is provided. The goal of the basic activity is to keep materials to a minimum.
Directions, including suggested scripts, are offered for convenience. You are encouraged to adapt or modify these activities to better resonate with your particular audience, as these activities are offered as an opportunity to tackle come difficult issues and conversations.
The conclusion is a guide to engage participants in a thoughtful conversation. The goal is to encourage independent ideas and reasoning.
Journaling questions are offer as a way to incorporate personal reflection using an individualized means of expression. Facilitators should encourage participants to choose a form of journaling that feels right for them, while also being supported to step “outside of the box,” with a technique that might stretch a traditional comfort zone. The following alternatives to “traditional” journaling (writing) are offered as suggestions:
- Dictate ideas/thoughts and/or use the computer (with or without voice-recognition software)
- Create poems, lists, stream of consciousness, as a method of reflection
- Draw (cartoons, pictures, etc.)
- Use photography (taking pictures, cutting out magazines) to create collages
(for most activities)
An Extending the Activity is offered for facilitators who wish to continue the topic. This activity may involve the use of technology, field trips, research, and more.
Through the Lens of Universal Design for Learning
The activities in this publication are leadership development “warm ups” for youth. They may certainly be used as the basis for planning lessons which focus more on extensive career and workforce development quests. The directions, extensions, and service-learning opportunities have been specifically designed and created through a lens of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
According to CAST (previously known as the Center for Applied Special Technology), UDL is a set of principles for designing curriculum that provides all individuals with equal opportunities to learn.
UDL is designed to serve all learners, regardless of ability, disability, age, gender, or cultural and linguistic background. UDL provides a blueprint for designing goals, methods, materials, and assessments to reach all students including those with diverse needs. Grounded in research of learner differences and effective instructional settings, UDL principles call for varied and flexible ways to:
- Present or access information, concepts, and ideas (the “what” of learning)
- Plan and execute learning tasks (the “how” of learning)
- Get engaged—and stay engaged—in learning (the “why “of learning)
UDL is different from other approaches to curriculum design in that educators begin the design process expecting the curriculum to be used by a diverse set of students with varying skills and abilities.
UDL is an approach to learning that addresses and redresses the primary barrier to learning: inflexible, one-size-fits-all curricula that raise unintentional barriers. Learners with disabilities are the most vulnerable to such barriers, but many students without disabilities also find that curricula are poorly designed to meet their learning needs. UDL helps meet the challenges of diversity by recommending the use of flexible instructional materials, techniques, and strategies that empower educators to meet students’ diverse needs. A universally designed curriculum is shaped from the outset to meet the needs of the greatest number of users, making costly, time-consuming, and after-the-fact changes to the curriculum unnecessary.
As you work through these activities, consider incorporating some of the following strategies, which support universal design for learning:
- Seek opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning through multiple modalities (e.g., written, oral, graphic representations, and multi-media representations)
- Encourage the use of technology to enhance learning (access to multi-media materials) and performance (e.g., spell check and word prediction software)
- Allow the opportunity for learners to make mistakes free from adverse consequences. In other words, to complete “do-overs” based on your feedback
- Include opportunities for learners to collaborate
- Provide opportunities for learners to contact you to ask questions
- Promote a strengths-based learning process
Tips for Improving Access to this Curriculum for Everyone
Consider the following global strategies:
Appreciate the difference that difference makes. Remember that each learner is an individual. Having young people recognize that you appreciate their individuality is even more important.
Demonstrate that you are committed to meeting the needs of all learners and that you are open to conversation and discussion about how to help them learn and succeed.
Recognize that we all have our own learning styles and cultural assumptions. Often times our preferred method of teaching is not a learner’s preferred (or required) method of learning.
Share your points of importance through a variety of ways. This helps learners move between abstract, theoretical, and concrete knowledge, specific experiences to expand everyone’s learning. Use pair-share and small group collaborative work to help learners learn from one another.
Consider the following facilitating strategies:
Get young people “doing” in addition to listening. Whether it is a group exercise, using a role playing activity, or an individual paper and pencil exercise such as drawing, following a writing prompt, creating lessons that engage different learning styles and engage young people in a variety of ways allows everyone to access the curriculum.
Whether it is buckling your seatbelt in the car or locking all the doors in your home before you leave it, it often takes repeated exposure to something before we remember it. Taking the time to reinforce earlier topics in the context of the new ideas being discussed will help young people retain the important lessons and skills needed to be strong leaders, successfully employed. You can be creative in the ways you repeat concepts or emphasize a point: when the concept is considered again, offer it from a different point of view or when the concept is demonstrated again, use a different exercise.
Enthusiasm is contagious. Demonstrating honesty, authenticity and enthusiasm for working with youth can often inspire the same qualities within participants themselves as they engage with this curriculum. Your passion is infectious. As the facilitator of this work, it is important that you find ways to maintain your passion and enthusiasm and recharge when necessary.
Presume competence and instill confidence. One of the best gifts you can offer today’s youth is to provide them with confidence and an opportunity to succeed. Have high expectations for all youth and help them to realize their potential as you support them to become independent decision-making leaders for their future.
Whatever teaching or training strategies you establish, there will be learners who will require accommodations. Making accommodations benefits not only the intended recipient but also other class participants. Any adjustments or adaptations should be targeted specifically to the area of difficulty or functional limitation the individual is experiencing.
Consider the following list of strategies to be used as a guide, when considering changes, adaptations, and accommodations to the way information is both presented and received within the learning environment to create the greatest potential for success of all learners.
- Underline or highlight key concepts
- Provide a word bank or a list of important words for review and discussion
- Use recorded reading passages
Allow for extra time
- Provide an outline or a preview of the material before it is to be read
- Rather than require individuals to read aloud, ask for volunteers
- Read aloud and use discussion and reflection strategies to ensure comprehensio
- Allow for dictation (and have someone else write)
- Supply the individual with pre-written assignment sheets, rather than requiring copying
- Allow extra time for journal writing
- Provide (spelling) word banks for writing assignments
- Use computers with voice to text recognition software to allow for dictation
- Provide opportunities for proofreading before completion of a writing project
- Record information presented and allow it to be listened to for review
- Provide outline of lessons
- Supply pre-written notes or designate a note-taker
- Summarize lessons on a regular basis
- Keep instructions short and to the point
- Present lessons in multi-sensory ways
- Allow the use of calculators
- Provide graph paper for calculations
- Allow additional time and/or group projects involving math
- Read and discuss math questions aloud
- Use a recording device to allow the individual to listen to the information for review
- Color code papers, folders, or notebooks to help with organization
- Use post-it notes/arrows to mark important pages or information in books
- Present materials in multi-sensory ways, allowing for hands-on instruction
- Modify “check-ins” for lengthier projects (with agreed upon points)