3 Noteworthy Traits That Predict Leadership Potential in Youth


Leadership is a skill that requires fostering and hard work — it doesn’t happen overnight, and not everyone is cut out for it. Does your little Louisville slugger have what it takes to become a great leader in their school, community, family and future career? 

The good news is they may already have traits that’ll improve their chances. As your kids age, their experiences and relationships will help develop and cement their personalities, making them uniquely themselves. How do you know if those traits will help them become successful leaders? 

Predictors of Leadership Potential in Youth

Multiple traits in childhood and adolescence can become predictors of future leadership since it’s such a complex skill. However, three stand out as particularly noteworthy. Here are the qualities of a good student leader:

  1. Adaptability 

Adaptability is a foundational trait for great leaders and can set your child up for success while they’re young and well into the future. These kids can easily change from one situation, schedule or activity to another. They may seem easier to parent but are also prone to impulsivity. 

As your kids grow into capable adults, they’ll move into the real world, where the only sure thing is: everything changes. Being adaptable will help them adjust and rebound from whatever curveballs life throws them. Leaders need to be able to work with new situations and people. Flexible adults can also learn from mistakes or challenges, grow from them and adjust. Nurturing and expanding their adaptive inclinations will prepare your kids for future leadership. 

  1. Extroversion

Extroverts have an easy time working with people and get enjoyment and fulfillment from the contact, which makes them very successful leaders. If your child or teen likes being the center of attention and meeting new people, odds are they have this trait. Their mood may even suffer if they’re alone for extended periods. 

Research shows extroverted people are more likely to be leaders than their introverted counterparts. They also tend to be positive, highly motivated, friendly, talkative and action-oriented, which can help them in any future position. 

If your child doesn’t exhibit any signs of an extroverted personality, they could still become leaders by drawing on their skills differently. Also, extroversion isn’t black and white — most people rest somewhere in the middle of the scale. 

  1. Empathy

On a basic level, empathy is the ability to understand what someone else is feeling and share those emotions. Everyone is born with a certain degree of this trait, and the rest grows with experience. Children first practice empathy by discovering and labeling their feelings and establishing them as separate from someone else’s. As they grow, they’ll correctly interpret how someone is feeling, put themselves in the other person’s shoes and come up with an appropriate response to the situation. 

Empathic leaders make for a happier and more productive team. The caring nature of these individuals makes them more likely to be successful, creating groups with innovative members who feel valued. That same caring nature makes empathetic kids want to pursue leadership in the first place — they know taking charge will help them be positive agents for change.

How to Encourage Your Kids

Whether your kids already possess these traits or not, there are ways you can help foster their growth and potential for leadership. Most of these can be done as a family and will grow your kids’ empathy, self-confidence and other important traits and soft skills. 

  1. Hold Family Meetings

Regular family meetings allow your kids to practice the skills and develop the traits that’ll help them prepare to be leaders. They can practice active listening and empathy when resolving conflict. Family members also rarely have the same personalities, so adaptability will be very beneficial in learning to work cooperatively with everyone toward a solution. 

  1. Encourage Participation in Activities

Participation in a team is a crucial milestone in kids’ leadership development, whether they play sports or join the chess club. Encourage your children and teens to pick one activity each year so they can continue to grow. They’ll learn cooperation, team dynamics and communication. 

  1. Volunteer Together

Volunteering as a family exposes you to people and places you might not otherwise have seen. It’s also a great way to continually foster empathy and care for someone or something other than yourself. Kids will help others and develop their leadership potential at the same time. 

  1. Learn as a Family 

View every experience as a learning opportunity. Leaders are interested in the world around them and should have an innate desire to take in new information and continually practice skills. Working on this as a family demonstrates the importance of lifelong learning and strengthens essential bonds. 

  1. Attend Youth Leadership Programs

Kids benefit from positive mentor relationships and can also learn a lot from each other. Local youth leadership programs are a way to take advantage of both. There are some great options right in Louisville: 

  1. Young Leaders Academy
  2. Young Kentuckians Advocacy Program
  3. The Muhammad Ali Center Council of Students
  4. Louisville Girls Leadership

Many Different Ways to Be a Leader 

Your child’s future is by no means doomed if they don’t exhibit one or all of these three traits. Leadership is a multifaceted skill, with no one “right” way to become one. The best thing you could do for your kids is accept them for who they are, rather than forcing them to fit into a mold you think is right. Your love and support will build their confidence and make them leaders in their own way.

Beth is the Managing Editor at Body+Mind. She is passionate about writing about parenting, nutrition, mental health and fitness. In her spare time, Beth enjoys going for runs with her dog and trying out new recipes.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here