I Hate Leadership

How do we untangle the web of students hatred toward leadership?

By Doug Franklin October 11, 2016

“I hate leadership!”

Talk about a phrase that I’ve heard more times than I care to remember. Over the past several years, I’ve noticed that not only do students not care about leadership, they actually hate it.

I find that most students hate leadership because of how it has disappointed and/or excluded them. Parents and teachers preach “leadership” as this desirable, albeit somewhat unattainable, goal that every student should strive for, but students take one look around and see countless leaders letting them down. Teachers, politicians, parents, youth workers, and coaches all play leadership roles in their lives, but often times these relationships are characterized by the disappointment that comes from missed expectations. They watch their parents go through a divorce. They see politicians cut corners. They experience a youth pastor walking away from his church. And if that were not enough to sour them on leadership, the student leaders in their world are just positional leaders who got there through good looks, popularity, and empty promises. Our students are convinced that leadership comes through natural selection and if you’re not selected, don’t bother trying. You’ve been excluded.

Leadership doesn’t hurt people – people hurt people. I know you’ve seen this statement before, but it was something about a gun and you may not have liked it. There is some truth here, however, that is beneficial to helping our students understand that leadership is a powerful tool that can be used or misused. Our world and our churches need students to lead today and in the future. So how do we untangle the web of students hatred toward leadership?

To turn this mindset around we need to teach these three simple points about leadership:

1. Leadership can be learned.
When we teach that leadership is a set of principles that can be learned, we communicate to our students that everyone can be a leader and no one is excluded. A student’s personality type and wiring don’t determine if they are a leader; instead, they determine what kind of leader each student will be.

2. Everyone can benefit from learning about leadership.
We must convince our students that leadership principles make a difference in their leadership but also in their everyday lives. When I explain to students the leadership principle of “intentional communication”, I share with them how growing in their communication could lead to the deepening and strengthening of their relationships and friendships. This helps students see the big picture benefit of learning and growing in their influence.

3. Leadership changes everything.
Our students need help dreaming about how God could use them in His Kingdom; they need to discover how the church and the world could look differently as result of their leadership. Tell stories of students making a difference to illustrate your point. When students hear about a youth group raising money for wells in Sudan, they’ll more readily believe that that kind of change is possible.

The reality is that the church is one generation away from being out of leaders. As I see it we have two choices: help this generation understand the power of leadership by equipping them and allowing them to lead now, or turn our backs and see the church suffer over the next twenty years. It’s not much of a choice, is it? Start by challenging and changing the mindset of your students. Show them that they can learn to lead. Help them recognize the benefits of learning about leadership, and give them opportunities to realize that their leadership matters in the Kingdom of God.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More