The Gift of Leadership


  • There are five aspects to the gift of leadership. We need to see potential, believe in others, nurture the skill, teach leadership explicitly, and then we must provide opportunities to empower them to lead.
  • Leadership is a skill that needs to be developed. Just like all teachers are leaders, all students are leaders too.
  • Notice, name, and nurture. Show gratitude for leadership qualities seen in class.

The Gift of Leadership #1: See Potential

When we look at students who typically have good work habits, get along well with anyone, help others on their own volition, and are great role models who step up to take opportunities, we often label them as “leaders.” Alternatively, students who typically need reminders to follow expectations, are disruptive, and can easily get others to join them off task, are not often labeled as leaders or when we do, we give the label of “negative leader.”

Hmm…if we are calling them “leaders,” then might that mean they have leadership qualities?

We need to SEE potential. Once we do, we can begin to foster leadership and intentionally guide it out of them. But it needs to begin with seeing potential first.

It’s common that when we purchase a new car, it’s like all of a sudden, more of the same vehicles are now magically on the streets. It wasn’t that so many more people bought the same car the same week you did. Instead, our eyes were not open to noticing them until we bought that vehicle! In the same way, we may not see leadership potential in others until we see ourselves as leaders first. Once we do, and once you recognize the many qualities leaders have that many already possess, your eyes will begin to see potential and the true gift of leadership will begin to unfold too.

The Gift of Leadership #2: The Gift of Believing

I recently wrote about the gift of believing in others in my Gift Better series back in June 2021. When we make it explicit that we believe in people, our gift can spark the greatest growth and belief in themselves. They can do things beyond what they originally believed for themselves…just because YOU told them you believed in them.

It’s that simple. How? Allow your heart to shine through. Warmly look them straight in the eye. Try these five words: I believe in you, _____ (name). Offer a genuine smile and genuinely believe in them. That’s it! Depending on how much they believe in themselves already, they may need to hear it on many occasions before they believe too.

There is so much power and empowerment in this small act or gift of believing that can truly change a life’s trajectory! It builds confidence and self-esteem!

So, when we see that students or teachers have the potential to be leaders, explicitly teach them how. Provide opportunities, and help them believe in themselves. You will begin to see leadership qualities grow because they will begin to see themselves as leaders.

The Gift of Leadership #3: Nurture It

If we believe that leadership is a skill that can be developed just like reading and writing, then we must understand that it can be learned. We need to first have the mindset that there is potential in everyone. Each person can have leadership qualities that will grow when nurtured. It starts out as a seed and when given the right conditions, it will begin to grow. Given the right sustained environment, that seed will thrive and eventually bloom into something greater.

So what is leadership? Here are some common leadership qualities: communication, empathy, compassion, accountability, integrity, gratitude, confidence, role model, leads by example, influence, resilience, positivity, and loyalty.

Wow, that’s a long list and it’s not exhaustive! There are many more!

This brings us back to the importance of seeing potential in not just all individuals but the potential in different situations to draw out their understanding of what leadership qualities are too.

One way we can develop leadership qualities is to notice, name, and then nurture. In my classroom, positive behaviors or habits I want to see more of, I am on high alert to notice them. Take a look and review the list of common leadership qualities mentioned above. Are these things you often see in students? Or as a school leader, in teachers?

If I can notice it, then I can name it.
If I can name it, then I can nurture it.

Too often, we notice the negative behaviors and by naming them, we nurture more of them, depending on how it is brought to their attention. How many times have we heard that we need to focus on positive behaviors? Notice and name. That’s how you effect change.

In my class, I nurture leadership qualities by bringing attention to what I notice. I say, “Thank you for being a leader by doing the right thing” or “I am so grateful you led by example by showing care and empathy.” I will use different variations of lead/leader/leadership so they hear this word often in my naming. I often interchange it by thanking them for being a good role model as well.

I even go as far as including a comment in each person’s report card about further developing leadership skills. If it’s written as a goal on a report card, then it officially makes it an aspect of learning to work on.

Regardless of how many years of experience teachers may have, leadership can be noticed, named, and nurtured too. As a Head Teacher, if I notice a colleague stepping up to take on a leadership role, in my gratitude statement, I will name it. In doing so, I continue to nurture more leadership in their future because they will see themselves as leaders.

The Gift of Leadership #4: Explicit Teaching

No matter the age of our students, leadership can be taught. Naming and nurturing can be more like implicit teaching, but if we truly want to foster these skills, we need to make it explicit too.

It all begins with the language they hear. In my class, when I see actions and behaviors or hear words that demonstrate leadership qualities, I show appreciation because I am grateful. I love seeing things that uplift our classroom atmosphere so we celebrate it. On top of this, I will point out how these qualities equal leadership qualities. How many people like to be seen as leaders?

I ask, “What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of leader do you want to be? Is that behavior what a positive leader would do? Who would like to be a leader and help with this?”

Just the other day, I pointed out different people who had shown leadership qualities through their actions. I named it when I noticed it happen. At the end of the day when we were reflecting, I brought up how grateful I was for all of the people who stepped up to make our learning environment better by their demonstration of leadership. I spoke about how we all can be leaders and talked about how it makes one feel and the positive effect it has on others too. We do kind things because we want to contribute to the classroom culture and it feels good to be in service to others. It’s personally rewarding!

It is important to make the teaching of leadership a priority if these are qualities you want to develop. The more they begin to see their own potential like we see their potential, the more they will notice it in themselves! That is the true gift of leadership you have given to them…which in turn, is a gift to others!

The Gift of Leadership #5: Provide Opportunities

What is in a label and how is it used? A negative one may lead to discouragement or hurtfulness. A positive one may lead to empowerment and confidence.

The next step is to provide numerous opportunities to lead. Look for natural ways students can contribute. Then offer, offer, offer. I also encourage them to come up with ways they can lead too. I provide an avenue for them to share their voice. If they have an idea, they are encouraged to share. I’m all ears!

Skills are meant to be developed over time. They all begin at a different place on their personal leadership journey. Can we see students as leaders with varying levels of development? Most definitely! It’s up to us to see their potential. Believe in them! Notice, name, and nurture leadership qualities. Make the teaching of it explicit. Then let the world be their oyster. Empower them!

Imagine a school environment where children and teachers are nurtured and explicitly taught to be leaders…day by day, year after year. Just imagine the impact not only they will make in the classroom and in any community they find themselves in but exponentially year after year and for a lifetime to come! Imagine that!

As influencers and change-makers in education, we can give the gift of leadership to each child by seeing their leadership potential and by believing in them. Transforming one child at a time to see themselves as leaders is the greatest gift of leadership to our community at large. The impact of someone who sees themselves as a leader can be far reaching!

Gift Better Challenge

The challenge this month is to begin to see through this lens…that leadership is a gift you can give to others. In turn, their leadership can be a gift to others.

Next month, I will share the gift of contribution. Until then, here are some ideas for this month’s challenge. Begin to see your leadership as a gift. Pick one or pick all:

  • Pay attention to how you are a leader. What are your strongest leadership qualities? Record them. What areas would you like to further develop? Choose 1-2 to focus and work on this upcoming month.
  • Begin to see leadership potential in all of your students. How will you notice, name, and nurture these qualities on a daily basis?
  • Commit to the explicit teaching of leadership qualities.

If we have not connected yet, I am looking forward to meeting you. Feel free to DM me on Twitter at @LiviaChanL. Let’s chat!

I’d love to hear what resonated with you so please fill out this form. I would absolutely love to know your story of how your life changed because someone saw your potential, believed you were a leader, and gave you the gift of leadership. I am grateful for your time and appreciate you for sharing your much-valued thoughts.

With a heart full of gratitude, Livia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *