What can you learn from our great leaders?

Two children flying away

What can you learn from our great leaders?

When you think about the word ‘leadership’, what images come to mind? 

Do you see a world leader, a businessperson or a politician or famous actor standing behind a podium on a stage addressing a huge crowd of people? Who were or are our great leaders?


What is leadership

This is a question I’ve asked many people of all ages, in various careers, with different educations and backgrounds. And, as you would expect, I’ve had many replies and differences in opinion but everyone agrees that it’s about stepping up and stepping forward in some way to show other people around you the way forward.

A characteristic that most leaders possess is a creative, determined or resilient mind. Many leaders focus on the spark of an idea that originated in their imagination and ran with it, taking the world with them!


“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Warren Bennis


What does a leader do?

Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘Do as I say, not as I do’?  

Leadership is about being able to communicate a message to others in a way that’s effective. A way that encourages people to stand together and move forward in strength. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ is a conflicting statement that suggests the person speaking those words is not doing something right. So, why should they be a leader?

Leadership can be making tough decisions and getting stuff done but there’s so much more to it. The world needs young people like you and those young at heart to step up and step forward for what you believe in.


What makes a leader?

This is a great question because it’s not like you wake up one morning and hey presto, you’re a leader. You don’t instantly become a leader because someone who holds power such as the Queen honours you to have a leadership role. 

Leaders come from all walks of life. They can be of any age, race, gender and have a multitude of characteristics. 

Sometimes people find themselves in a leadership role as if by accident. Maybe at school as head girl or boy or through a job promotion. For some, leadership skills come naturally and friends, classmates or colleagues respect your decisions and ‘follow’ you from the start but for others, the skills or knowledge is learned.

No matter who or what the situation, leadership is an important role because it’s one that puts you in the limelight, requires a level of responsibility and lays the foundation for positive change.


What does it take to become a leader?

Do you need confidence to be a leader? To be respected, inspirational, passionate or a great communicator and with a mission or a message to share? 

Think back to the first vision you had of a leader at the beginning of this chapter. What attributes did the person in your vision have? What attributes would someone need in order for you to follow their lead?

If you are unsure about this, think about who you follow at the moment. Do you follow every social media post published by a movie star, pop star, theatre actor, sports person or environmental activist? What newsletters, YouTube channels or podcasts do you subscribe to? 

Do you follow individuals who are mentors, teachers, a family member, friends or classmates? There are probably many people who you admire and follow for different reasons. Work out what they are because this will give you an insight into what you value as an individual.


“A leader is a dealer in hope.” Napoleon Bonaparte

Girl sitting on bed with notebook
Who are our great leaders?

There are many types of leader and leadership styles. I want to share the names of four leaders who achieved big time when they held a leadership role. 

I want you to think of what you know about these people and how you perceive them as a person and their achievements. If you are not familiar with these famous figures from the past (and present), spend five minutes researching each of them to improve your knowledge – you never know when they may come up in a question at the next pub quiz.

  • Winston Churchill – UK Prime Minister who led the country through World War Two
  • Mahatma Ghandi – led India to independence 
  • Martin Luther King Jr. – American Christian minister who led the civil rights movement from 1955
  • Bill Gates – American businessman, co-founder of Microsoft Corporation and now philanthropist


Exercise: How great at leading were they?

On a scale of one to ten (ten being the highest) how would you rate these leaders in terms of:

  • Positivity
  • Effectiveness
  • Empowerment
  • Discipline 
  • Trust
  • Confidence
  • Ambassador for their cause
  • Relationship-building
  • Achievement
  • Communication

Winston Churchill liked to lead from the front and empowered his followers to stand up for what they believed in. He had high standards, chose his team wisely and stood by his morals not to surrender when the nation was at war.

Ghandi was an ambassador and a leader who was good at making other people feel valued. He liked the personal touch and built solid relationships with those around him and led by example in a non-violent, very peaceful protest.

Martin Luther King used his intelligence (rather than his heart), peaceful philosophy and strong communication to lead a non-violent movement in a non-violent way.

Bill Gates is a strong innovative leader who encouraged creativity, innovation and recognised individual and team achievements. 


“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.” John Maxwell


Choose the life you want to lead

What great leaders can you think of past and present? Can you identify anybody who you think will rise above the rest to become a great leader? If you have a positive role model, what steps can you take to lead a more fulfilling life by adopting some their actions yourself? 

Please do take the time to share your thoughts with the Back on Track Teens Community:

Following influential leaders (for the right reasons) will help you to make better decisions, keep your mind curious and to grow and learn from their wisdom.

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