student ministry, youth ministry, leadership

Turning Leadership Upside-down

By Doug Franklin March 20, 2014

When I speak to students, I like to ask them, “How many of you have a negative feeling about leadership?” Usually, most students in the room raise their hands. That’s telling. We are trying to teach leadership to people who dislike leadership.

Why do they turn their noses up at the word “leadership”? They tell me it’s because of all the bad things they have seen leaders do. Their student government is a joke. Band and drama leadership is based on talent and politics, not caring for people. Sports leaders are the top performers and popular students. The list goes on: apathetic teachers, uncommitted parents, and a gridlocked government.

No wonder they aren’t listening. Based on their experience, leadership is bad. Try convincing these students to step into leadership? Not going to happen.

If we have any chance of teaching solid, fruitful leadership to our students, we have to turn their concept of leadership on its head. We have to flip the leadership pyramid upside-down.

Students see leadership as command and control. One boss tells everyone else what to do. But that’s not leadership—not the way Jesus described it. In fact, that’s leadership at its worst. Students need to hear that real leadership is rooted in love. It cares for others. It helps peers understand how they are wired. It encourages them to use their gifts for the glory of God. Real leaders challenge followers to make a difference by emulating Jesus, the servant-leader.

When students discover that leadership is actually about empowering people from below, not controlling them from above, they will understand why they hate the world’s vision of leadership so much.

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