Developing Student Leaders: Modelling and Mentoring

What does it take to develop student leaders? In my previous post, I suggested that a good starting point might be to provide an opportunity for students to gain some experience in leading. Let them experiment a bit with the knowledge, character and skills they already have. If this “experimenting” is going to have the desired outcomes of motivation and focus for developing as a leader, students are going to need some support… and a critical aspect of that support is a mentor.

What does a mentor do for their student leaders?

Invest in a few. It is difficult to mentor more than a few at a time, and for busy teachers it is basically impossible. A mentor carefully chooses a few and invests heavily in them, in order that they might in turn invest in others. This is what Jesus did when He chose 12 disciples.

Model leadership character and behavior. Like a master craftsman with an apprentice, a mentor explicitly demonstrates the skills and character qualities that they are encouraging their students to develop. The mentor invites the young leader to serve along side them, and hands over responsibility as they are ready.

Exercise authenticity and faithfulness. This is really an aspect of modelling leadership character, but it is so important that it is worth highlighting separately. It is not ok to say “do as I say, not as I do”. If we are not exercising authenticity and faithfulness in our own leadership then we are not likely to be modelling anything else that is valuable in a way that students will learn. They need to see us battle with our weaknesses, learn from our mistakes, make tough decisions and persevere through difficulties.

What opportunities might you have to invest in a small number of student leaders in your school? In what ways could you invite them to serve alongside you so that you have the opportunity to model leadership to them?

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