On the 24th November 2021, InvestIN hosted Learning to Lead, a webinar designed for parents who want to help their child develop the leadership skills needed to become an effective leader.
The event was led by Alex Balderstone (CEO and Co-Founder of Kaiku), who delivered advice on leadership styles, how to be an effective student leader and what parents can do to support their children as they hone these skills.
In this accompanying blog piece, we’ll take a look at 5 leadership styles and examine how 3 very different world leaders embody them. We’ll also explore how your child can develop leadership skills whilst still at school, with key takeaways from the event and a bonus downloadable resource pack for your child to complete.
The Importance of Leadership
It’s easy to see why. Good leaders play an important function in the workplace, providing direction, inspiring action, making decisions, motivating their team and helping their organisation to achieve its goals.
Leadership can be learnt from an early age and can be improved upon in school in a variety of ways, through activities such as team sports, clubs and student organisations.
What are leadership skills?
Let’s take a look at the soft skills and characteristics essential to successful leadership.
You can use this list as a reference point for your child to use when writing future CVs and applications.
- Communication: being able to communicate and actively listen is an incredibly important characteristic of a good leader
- Motivation: being able to motivate a team and encourage them to work to the best of their abilities, e.g. during a sports match, is an invaluable skill
- Delegating: being able to entrust others with a task, in a group project for example, is a useful skill when it comes to decision-making and time management
- Positivity: leading is not always easy during stressful periods; a positive attitude will go a long way in keeping team morale high during homework projects, at sports events or in competitive extracurriculars
- Trustworthiness: for a team to work at their best they need to feel like they can talk to their team leaders when they have concerns or questions
- Creativity: not all problems have a clear-cut solution; being able to think outside the box is a useful skill that can be developed through extracurriculars or learning a new skill
- Feedback: the ability to give feedback by being honest, open and empathetic is key to leadership development
- Responsibility: leaders need to be able to take responsibility; if a student is in charge of a club or society they will need to organise schedules, funding, social activities, etc., as well as accept responsibility when things go wrong
- Commitment: a good leader will demonstrate true commitment to the organisation, job, club or society they are a part of, inspiring other members to do the same
- Flexibility: leaders need to be flexible and able to deal with new situations as they develop
5 Leadership Styles
Leadership styles are the different ways that people lead a team, exercise their authority and ensure that goals are met.
Autocratic leadership, otherwise known as authoritarian leadership, sets the long-term vision for a team and clearly defines individual team members' roles. In this leadership style, the leader is the most knowledgeable person in the team. This can be very useful in busy periods, as decision-making time is reduced, the chain of command is clear, roles and responsibilities are explicit and so consistent results are more likely. However, this type of leadership can be restrictive, as input from the team is limited.
The participative style of leadership uses a democratic approach. Team members are involved in the decision-making process and therefore feel included, engaged and motivated. Final decisions are made by the leader of the team through collaboration, which in turn increases motivation and job satisfaction. This style can help develop a strong team or group and can inspire creative ideas.
This style uses rewards and punishments to get the job done. Clear goals and rewards are set and team members know the consequences of their actions. This is a leadership style that depends on team members following routines and tasks efficiently and correctly.
Transformational leadership looks at the group culture, defines and explores it and then thinks about the changes that could be made to improve it. Leaders who use this style bring team members together to identify challenges and opportunities, and talk about individual professional goals and aspirations. The leader then uses this feedback to alter the team goals and values so that they align with team members’ individual goals and values. This type of leadership improves morale and productivity.
When a leader employs the servant leadership style, they endeavour to serve the people they lead, whether that’s employees, customers or constituents. They create an atmosphere where everyone becomes a leader and the manager takes on a supporting role to help employees achieve organisational objectives. The manager's focus is on the organisation and the community as a whole.
Examples of Leaders and their Leadership Styles
As demonstrated by the diverse array of leadership styles listed above, there are many ways in which individuals can lead a team. Your child is likely to come across all these styles in their educational, personal and future professional life.
Different styles work better in different situations. Let's look at a few historic leaders to see their leadership styles in action:
Steve Jobs, the enigmatic founder of Apple, is a good example of an autocratic leader. Led by his own unique vision, Jobs had a notorious eye for detail and was heavily involved in every aspect of his company, consciously employing people with a similar mindset who would be more likely to adhere to his leadership.
Mother Teresa was a servant leader who served the sick, the poor and the needy in an attempt to make their lives easier. She believed in living in the way that the people she served did. Her clear vision and strong idea of what she wanted inspired others to follow in her footsteps.
Barack Obama was viewed by many as a transformational leader. His presidency, concerned with big ideas and lofty aspirations, certainly seems to fit this mould. Obama valued innovation and empowered those he led to come up with creative solutions to problems. His promise to ‘change the culture of Washington’ is a good example of how he looked at the culture of American politics and worked to improve it on behalf of the American people.
How to Improve Leadership Skills
As important as leadership skills are, they aren’t often taught in schools. It is usually assumed that leaders are determined by their natural ability, but research suggests otherwise. Luckily, there are all sorts of ways students can start improving their leadership abilities and employability skills outside the classroom.
- Getting involved in student societies is a good way for students to prove motivation and commitment and develop key skills such as problem solving and creativity
- Sports teams can help build team working skills and trust
- Tutoring younger students can improve communication and teach responsibility
- Volunteering can help students prove their trustworthiness, compassion and reliability
- Completing a passion project demonstrates commitment, creativity, planning skills, time management and perseverance
- Work experience is a great way for students to learn from leaders and enhance their problem-solving skills
- Leadership is an important skill that students can learn from a young age which can set them up for success in their future careers
- Leadership is a broad area: there are a diverse range of leadership styles and skills that your child is likely to encounter in their educational, personal and professional lives
- Students should be talking to the right people and getting as much advice as they can about their chosen careers (InvestIN Programmes can help with that!)
- Any out-of-school experiences will help students develop great employability skills; check out our blog on how to improve employability skills for more information. The more experience your child gains the more skills they can learn!
- Take a look at our free resource pack for bonus tips, advice and useful resources designed to get your child developing their leadership skills now!
Learning to Lead Resource Pack
In this resource pack, we have provided information on everyday ways to build leadership skills and games to help develop new ones.
To keep the discussion going with other parents, and for more useful resources, join our InvestIN Community Parent Group on LinkedIn.
Not sure how to help your child choose a career? An InvestIN programme offers a comprehensive insight into an industry, so students can test-drive a career before committing to it. Industry experts will guide your child through immersive career simulations, hands-on activities and inspiring site visits, whilst also giving detailed advice on how to succeed.