Youth Leadership Training Ideas

Michele Meleen
teens in discussion

Providing adequate opportunities for skill-building in youth ensures a brighter future for everyone. Leadership encompasses a wide variety of personality traits and skills that can be encouraged in every young person.

10 Youth Leadership Training Ideas

Great leaders are able to work within a group setting to achieve shared goals using effective communication and teamwork. When planning youth leadership training, take care to incorporate as many different activities and experiences as possible.

1. Town Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt consists of a list of items the team must find to win. You can create a scavenger hunt in your town that incorporates local landmarks and history or everyday objects and locations. In the spirit of teamwork, require the whole group to take a team selfie when they find each item on the list. This will ensure the whole group is working together and staying together. This type of scavenger hunt will require some preparation:

  1. Find a town map that at least includes street names.
  2. Decide upon a general area to focus clues. Make sure the youth can get there by walking.
  3. Add a start and end location to your map.
  4. Start making the scavenger hunt list of items to find. For younger students, you can create a list of things like building, park and store names. For older students, offer clues to specific locations.
  5. Equip the group with the map, the scavenger hunt list, a camera and a cell phone for emergencies. Give them a reasonable time limit to complete the task as a team.

Youth will need to use their knowledge of the community, navigation skills. In addition, they will learn effective communication skills as they attempt to find items as a group. By requiring the group to stay together, the team will have to agree on which items to find first as well as encourage any members who are having trouble keeping up.

2. Community Service Project

Working as a group to achieve a goal and help others can be a rewarding experience not only for the group as a whole but for the individuals involved as well. Focus on your community needs when choosing a specific project. To get going on your community service project:

  1. Brainstorm potential projects as a group. Write down all ideas during this time.
  2. Analyze your list for feasibility.
  3. Select up to three projects most of the group feels passionate about and believes can be done.
  4. Break the group into teams, one for each possible project. Ask each group to create a small presentation about why their project is needed in the community and how it can be carried out. Each group can then present their project to the entire team.
  5. Utilize a voting system to select one project to focus on.
  6. Delegate responsibilities to each group member. Allow youth to volunteer for the lead role and ask that leader to help with delegations.
  7. Once each participant has a specific job or role, they can individually complete their task.
  8. If all tasks are completed, the project will be a success.

A community service project gives the team a shared goal and requires everyone to take initiative and contribute to the cause. Projects can raise money for local causes and organizations or raise awareness. Adults should monitor progress and encourage ideas while leaving actual decisions and problem solving to the group. The goal here is to make a difference in your community and learn how rewarding it is to work together.

3. Start a Club

Starting a club for like-minded youth in your community gives kids a place to develop skills with others interested in the same topic. Clubs can be specifically geared toward leadership training or center on particular interests like 4-H, Girl Scouts, or community service. To start a club:

  1. Research local clubs and organizations already in place.
  2. Look for an under-represented area and focus your group there.
  3. Decide upon a mission and goals for the group.
  4. Advertise and recruit members.
  5. Assign officer positions using a voting system.
  6. Plan and carry out activities to reach goals.

Being part of a club gives youth a sense of belonging and purpose. Kids with similar interests can work together to make a bigger impact. The main goal of a club is to bring youth together in a comfortable environment where they can plan for and achieve goals. All club members will regularly use organization, networking and communication skills making this the ideal ongoing youth leadership training ground.

4. Become the Teacher

Every student has strengths and talents. By tapping into these unique skill sets you can help students gain better self-awareness and more confidence. Youth can be experts on a variety of topics:

  • Crafting
  • Social media use
  • Research skills
  • Video game play
  • Sports
  • Arts

Asking each group member to teach the rest of the group a particular skill gives everyone the chance to feel what it's like to be a leader and a follower. Start by asking each student to make a list of things he is good at or knows a lot about. Ask youth to choose one skill they feel comfortable teaching to the group. Create a schedule of lessons so each student knows what she is teaching and when. At least one week before his class, allow each student to submit a supply list that adheres to the budget. When the lesson is over, ask the group to fill out a simple evaluation of the teacher.

The young person teaching the lesson will practice public speaking skills, planning and organization and self-confidence. Those acting as students in the lesson will learn to respect others, practice active listening skills and find ways to offer appropriate feedback.

5. Self-Evaluation

The ability to recognize one's talents, strengths and weaknesses is an integral skill for leaders. One way for youth to evaluate their leadership qualities is to use famous quotes about leaders.

  1. Gather a variety of quotes about leadership and qualities of a good leader from successful world leaders.
  2. Hang the quotes all around the room.
  3. Ask youth to read each quote and choose one that best describes himself.
  4. Ask each student to read his chosen quote to the group and explain why he chose it.
  5. Encourage group discussion about how to develop the qualities and characteristics chosen by each student.

Youth will have to look inward and reflect on their personality, attributes and beliefs. The group discussions will help students gain an understanding of how people perceive themselves in relation to how others perceive them. This simple activity can help build self-awareness and self-esteem.

6. Public vs. Private Persona Shoebox Activity

Part of being a good leader is understanding how your personal life and public life intertwine. Politicians, celebrities and humanitarians alike strive for a balance between what the world knows about them and what information is kept private. This activity gives youth a chance to see what information in their life can be shared with the world and what should be kept sacred. Before the activity, you'll need to gather:

  • One shoebox with a lid for each student
  • Magazines
  • Glue
  • Markers
  • Scissors
  • Other craft supplies optional
  1. Each student will decorate one shoebox with pictures and words that describe his interests, values and abilities.
  2. Youth should decorate the outside of the shoebox with information they feel comfortable sharing publicly. The inside of the box should contain information they would rather keep private.
  3. Give students time to cut out images and write words, filling all blank space inside and outside the box.
  4. Once finished, students may cover their shoebox with a lid to keep private information private.
  5. After everyone has completed a box, students can take turns sharing their public persona with the group.
  6. Ask the group to discuss the information shared and whether they all agree it is acceptable to share in public.

7. Compliments for Everyone

Praising others and accepting kind words are important for those in leadership roles. Not everyone is comfortable giving or receiving praise. This activity gives the entire group practice on complimenting others, accepting compliments from others, finding strengths in everyone on the team and quality versus quantity.

  1. Each student should be provided with a receptacle of some sort - a bucket, basket, or gift bag.
  2. Each time you meet, youth will be asked to write one compliment about each person in the group. Those compliments will be placed in the appropriate person's receptacle.
  3. Youth can then read the compliments on their time while waiting for the group to start or at the end of a meeting.

The important point to emphasize with compliments is the benefit of offering quality praise instead of generic phrases like, "I like your hair today." Sincere compliments focus on:

  • Personality traits
  • Personal qualities
  • Achievements
  • Specific details

8. Gratitude Journal

A positive attitude and outlook go a long way when fulfilling the role of a leader. Gratitude journals are a simple way to look for the silver lining in life. Taking a moment to reflect on the day's events and their impact on you brings positivity to every day.

Each student will need a notebook or journal to keep at home for this activity. Ask participants to write five things they are grateful for each day. At first, this may seem difficult for some people. As the days go on and a person's mentality changes the task will become easier. Youth can keep the journal private or share a few items from their list. Either way, the exercise will help youth gain a positive outlook on their life.

9. Shared Calendar

Organization and planning skills are essential for leading a team to success. One simple way to practice these skills is by creating a shared calendar. This activity can be done within:

  • Sports teams
  • Clubs/Groups
  • Friendship circles

The goal of a shared calendar is to create one calendar that houses all the information about when different things will happen for the group. You can include practice schedules, regular meetings, deadlines, holidays and community events. Any event or deadline that affects the entire group should be added to the calendar.

  1. Buy or print a calendar that spans the entire year.
  2. Delegate different types of entries to each group member. For example, one person might be in charge of gathering the community calendar from your town while another works out the timeline for a group project.
  3. All entries are then written on the calendar. You can color code them if you find that to be helpful.

Once the calendar is complete, each group member receives a copy. The process of creating the calendar requires organization and planning. The end result helps keep the entire group informed and organized.

10. Community Mentors

Youth learn through modeling from adults. Requesting the help of successful leaders in your community gives youth real-world examples of what leadership looks like. Using local leaders also gives youth the opportunity to seek out mentors easily. Community leaders can give lectures to the group, offer job-shadowing and internship opportunities, or be paired with an individuals for one-on-one mentorship. Find community mentors by looking at:

  • Local politicians
  • People in management positions
  • Educators
  • Public servants
  • Medical professionals
  • Town/village board and committee members
  • Church leaders

Shaping the Future

The youth of today are the leaders of the future world. Providing varied experiences and shaping leadership qualities in young people will help prepare them for adulthood. Youth leadership training can be a valuable experience for any young leader.

Youth Leadership Training Ideas