Youth Leadership Traits for a Teen Decade - #1

We are about to enter "The Teen Decade". It happens every century. The teen decade we are about to move into can be shaped by each of us who love this generation if we are willing to adjust our lives to a few key values.

This month I would like to share 4 elementary leadership traits for youth leaders who want to shape teen culture in this coming decade. Let me give you value number one in this post. Let's make this interactive and viral by taking the time to complete the blog with your thoughts.

Great youth leaders do not underestimate the significance of Natural and Spiritual leadership

Let me take some latitude in using a few secular or marketplace examples of natural leadership first. Then I will conclude with a more classical treatment of spiritual leadership.

This kind of leadership is levied from the gifts that certain people have to see systems and programs and use them to create movement. When the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings football teams began the season, many in the media had placed these clubs at the top of their divisions and favorites to contend for a super bowl. Just four weeks ago and halfway through the season, both teams were several games under .500 and underachieving. And the revolution began. The Cowboys changed head coaches and won 3 of the next 4 games (and if they had not fumbled in the loss on Thanksgiving they would have won that game). For the Cowboys, the inspiration came in the form of changes in team rules such as practice in full pads, business dress to games, and being on time for meetings.

Natural Leadership is seen in someone who is left brain and considered administrative or organizational because they are wired with mathematical or logical skills. This kind of leadership recognizes natural traits of leaders such as communication, organization, or intelligence. However, there is another kind of leadership leveraged with spiritual traits such as integrity, relationships, and emotional or inspirational characteristics.

This kind of leadership comes from people who are gifted with emotional and relational strengths who develop unity that creates movement. A great example of spiritual leadership in government took place this fall. The shift in Washington’s power was obvious as voters across the nation decided that the movement of the country needed a change. Incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) has brought an inspirational ethos to Washington, DC. The new speaker has shouted, shed tears, and even offended Congress with his emotional leadership. In an interview with CBS' 60 Minutes, the top House Republican said that changes would be coming aimed at cutting federal spending and his party would be bringing to the House floor legislation cutting some aspect of federal spending each week they are in control of the House. The shift remains to be seen, but, something is under way.

Spiritual Leadership has been called "The It Factor". Someone who is right brain has this kind of leadership because they are wired with creativity and social skills. I have seen youth leaders in both paradigms. In fact, the best leadership setting is when you have both of these working in tandem. Symbiotically feeding off each other. Knowing the diversity in our culture today, it seems vital to walk in both schools of leadership. That may require a Natural Leader to place around them a Spiritual Leader with the charisma it takes to motivate people, or, it may require a Spiritual Leader to embrace the organizational skills that a Natural Leader can bring to the setting.

So, with the Teen Decade upon us, let's talk. Help us to define the importance of Natural and Spiritual Leadership ...

-Is there another leadership trait or style to throw into the mix?
-Which will youth respond to more successfully?
-Define the two better with some good information and data
-Lend some more examples of each of these in specific organizations
-Ask a question to get us going



  1. Would you say it's possible for a leader to possess both natural and spiritual leadership attributes?

  2. I think it is possible to have aspects of each one. The main leadership style would be one or the other, but you could definitely have traits of the others, i would almost go as far as saying all great leaders do. They might not start out that way, but they learn from others who they have around them.

    The thing that I really look at is which one would teens get from more? It would seem that they might get more from the natural side of things. And then, how much do we neglect the holy spirit when it comes the leading us in the spiritual leadership side of things? Do we really put all our trust in him?

  3. melissa -
    you are right. many people do have a combination of these traits. it is rare to have both. that is why it is vital to surround yourself with a variety of leadership types. it will help you reach more students that way.

    iym -
    personality is difficult to shape because it is usually a characteristic you are born with. but gifts and talents can certainly be groomed. sometimes people spend more time working on their weaknesses though. i would like to see youth leaders get the most out of their strengths and then staff their weaknesses when they can. volunteers of course. not everyone can hire their weakness.

    as far as how to reach the students. it depends on your students. they are all different. geographically, psychologically, relationally, and socially. there are non-negotiables in reaching the teen culture, but, our approach is pretty fluid because it takes all kinds of people to reach all kinds of people.

  4. Thanks Jeff. I am currently learning how vital it is to have all different people with different traits helping out in youth ministry. One thing I always appreciated learning in your classes was how to work on making your strength stronger and seeking out people whose strengths are your weaknesses and seeing if they'd be interested in volunteering.

    In my opinion when there is diversity among your leaders and their abilities - there is a better chance for diversity among the students that you reach. At the same time I wouldn't say that students respond more to one than they do the other. I think students are drawn by leaders because the leader has something to offer, whether natural or spiritual leadership. God gives both types of leadership and in turn blesses both. By surrounding yourself with those that "make up", in a sense, for what you lack, you are able to reach more people. Both types of leadership are important, it's just a matter of knowing your students and knowing what is going to have the most impact with them.


Post a Comment