Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Wanted: Youth Leaders Now

April 26, 2004

Youth organizations need help! Join a worthy cause.

Positions available: When it comes to youth, there can never be enough committed adults to guide and shape the rising generation of future leaders. Please note the qualifications of those talents ideally suited for the job. However, if you have a natural enthusiasm and interest in helping young people, we'll find a place for you.

Qualifications for working with adult staff and volunteers:

- Demonstrate personal leadership in guiding, directing and influencing others to willingly follow you in working toward worthy group goals. Have executive abilities developing budgets, recruiting membership and managing of human resources.

- Demonstrate the ability to recruit quality adult staff and volunteers who share the vision and desire to help youth. Screen out adult leaders and volunteers who are burnt out, negative, or are too controlling.

- Have training sessions. Bring in outside resources to help in the process. Build up the awareness, knowledge and skills of the group. Get outside training yourself. Make the social time together fun and enjoyable.

- Show organizational skills in goal setting, planning, delegation, and follow through. Provide enough oversight and reporting to show concern and care for the work others do.

- Have the ability to listen and communicate effectively. Be willing to give appreciation, recognition, and even-handed treatment for all those who share in the effort.

- Be able to join others in being a team player and modeling team effort so that youth see how teamwork operates.

- Understand the need for making time meaningful, for giving adult direction, for providing a safe emotional and physical environment, and adhering to overall goals of a program. Use good judgment when intervening in youth activities.

Job description: Show leadership, communications and relationship skills with youth by demonstrating the following:

- Find the worth of each individual. Don’t get caught up in numbers, successful programs, or group success at the expense of knowing and helping individuals succeed.

- Don’t saddle your program with unmotivated youth who act up, use negative peer pressure and who don’t want to be there. Find a way to reach them or to blunt their negative influence.

- Give liberally of your time and attention. Those leaders who go out of their way to help will have a great impact on the youth they serve.

- Be inclusive. Give everyone a chance to participate, lead and be involved. Don’t play favorites or rely on proven performers only. Your fairness or lack of it will be obvious to everyone. Take each youth as they are and help them improve. The more natural leaders will emerge.

- Listen, empathize and show respect to many and varied opinions. Draw out ideas from the more reserved and less vocal youth. Show concern for everyone’s thoughts and ideas. Keep your personal opinions to yourself while drawing out ideas from others. Help create an atmosphere where young people can share ideas in a nonthreatening manner.

- Be above board and fair. Be consistent with your principles and values. Treat others the way you would like to be treated.

- Let youth take the initiative and create their own experiences. If they succeed, they will know they did it and will grow in their confidence. If they fail or fall down, they will learn from mistakes and improve. Mistakes are OK.

- Help youth in leadership roles to recognize and and improve their leadership through guided questions and reflective analysis. Give everyone a chance to lead. The same skills are involved in leadership and followership. Help them see the connection between character and leadership.

- Keep confidences.

- Expect youth groups to function as a team and to experience the joy of team success. Help youth leaders to understand how to work for the good of the whole. Train youth leaders in their abilities to communicate vision, goals, ideas and to involve others in the planning and goal-setting process.

- Help youth leaders give others the limelight and recognition for their accomplishments. Express your own appreciation privately and publicly.

Rewards. It is rewarding to be in a position where your influence will have life-long effects. You will be in high demand. Your efforts will be appreciated by all who love and support the youth you assist. Warm friendships and enjoyment that come with doing good things together. You will have fun while sharing noble work.

You can make a difference - more than you know. You are needed. You'll see tangible results from your efforts.

The background information for this column came from Mike Phelan, a professor of youth leadership at Brigham Young University.