Leadership development for a teenager

arbella13

New Member
Joined
Oct 8, 2019
Messages
6
Hi all,
New member here. I am a father of a 13 year’s old 8th grader. My son started to think about possible military career. He also understands that getting a good education is a number one priority. With that said a military college can be a good option if that what he decides to do.
I know how hard it is to get in to USMA or VMI, however he is a very good student in a very competitive boys only catholic school. He is also a decent hockey player (not D-1 material though, so athletic scholarship in not on the horizon). He also does Rock Climbing and Junior Rifle team.
My biggest concern is his leadership ability. He is a quiet guy. My question is there anything we can do to develop his leadership abilities or it’s something the person is born with?
Thank you in advance for your time
 

AROTC-dad

Moderator
5-Year Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2014
Messages
5,557
A lot of the best leaders are "quiet" types. Many lead by example as opposed to yelling the loudest.

  1. Here are some things that my own "quiet" son did in HS to develop as a leader: (He is now an Army 2LT)
  2. Became a volunteer tutor and helped teach math to younger children.
  3. He expressed interest to his varsity coach about leading his soccer team. by the following year he was appointed Captain.
  4. Volunteered at local organizations and helped organize projects.
  5. Set an example for others when doing group projects. This got him positive letters of recommendation when he applied for nominations.
  6. Got a PT job (move theater) and eventually volunteered to train other rookies. Again, this established leadership.
 

MidCakePa

Member
Joined
May 22, 2018
Messages
1,888
+1 to @AROTC-dad. Leadership is about strength of character, not volume of voice. The SAs — and the military — are full of quiet yet effective leaders.

The true measure of leadership, as relayed to us by people familiar with SA life and admissions, is this: Did you personally make a positive impact on an organization or the community, such that you left it a better place than when you arrived — ideally by rallying others to the cause? That’s the kind of leadership that translates well to officership.
 

ChoirDude

Member
Joined
Mar 27, 2018
Messages
117
My son is currently his NJROTC Battalion's Commander/Adjutant, Captain of the Varsity Color Guard, SeaPerch and CyberPatriot Teams and ranked first in PT. He is also a member of student leadership program, speaks to his fellow peers on the importance of voting, attended Boys State, lead's teen group at church and has attended West Points Summer Leadership Program and Naval Academy's summer seminar. Like AROTC dad above, I have a son who is considered "quiet" by his teachers, peers, friends, etc. But he carries himself well, is a good listener and has a lot of initiative. One thing that I've noticed and has been remarked upon by his instructors is that he is conscientious about others and demonstrates this in ways such as ensuring that on field meets, his cadets have all gotten their lunch first and then he will get his. On runs where he can easily finish first, he will double back to encourage those who are struggling to keep going. He does Spartan races with his fellow cadets outside of school and again, will make sure that the team crosses the finish line together. Leadership presents itself in many forms and often, it's not the obvious but what is subtle and more rare.
 

jaglvr

Member
Joined
Dec 23, 2017
Messages
562
Have him check out Civil Air Patrol or Sea Cadets. My DD joined CAP outside our school district and has made numerous friends and gained leadership skills. The kids I have encountered are all so welcoming that I bet he would overcome some of his shyness there.
 

bopper

Member
Joined
Nov 22, 2016
Messages
215
In general, colleges/SAs look for leadership in their applicants. I did alumni interviews for my college and I found that
Leadership can be President of a club or Captain of the Team or Section Leader in Band. But it can also be:

-Student involved in ethnic community center for years and then is asked to teach little kids
-Actual officer in a club
-Watched his little brother after school and encouraged parents to sign up brother for sports team and took him to practice
-Within a club, organized an activity for that club
-Led a community service activity
-Lead singer of a band - sings, chooses set list, organizes transportation for other members
-Summer Camp counselor
-Boy Scout Eagle Award/Girl Scout Gold Award
-EMT Cadet
-Boys State/Girls State
-Tutors others

So for right now I would have him look for projects he can lead. Is he in Boy Scouts? Belong to a House of Worship? Houses of Worship are the best because they are always looking for volunteers. We have teens leading our CROP Walk (https://www.crophungerwalk.org/) effort at our church as well as our Backpack Food program (http://www.shopforgoodness.com/) Even if you don't attend a house of worship you son could go to a Youth Group and participate.
 

shock-n-awe

Member
Joined
May 12, 2015
Messages
415
It’s great that your son is already settling goals and seeking a path(s) to achieving them!
He will have time to develop himself and all of his accolades to become a highly competitive candidate if he works hard. I suggest reviewing the WP class profile and work towards having a similar profile at or above the averages listed. Academic, athletic, leadership. ACT, etc.. Regarding the activities/EC, be sure to he selects things he enjoys and will be engaged in, not just trying to check a box.
So beginning with academics, parents and son should meet with HS guidance counselor explaining his goals and discussing how he needs to reach them. This will include setting the most rigorous course load heavily based in STEM that he can take (successfully). I believe parents need to understand themselves what their child needs to do and accomplish to be a highly competitive SA candidate. Many HS GC may not know anything at all about an SA and will not be much help, thus an additional driving force by a parent who educates themselves ( example: think SAF) and child in the SA profile and admissions process may be helpful.
Athletics, continue playing hockey and become a team captain. EC, there was a list of many great options posted above. Student government is a good choice, but be an active leader. Take ACT sophomore year and continue studying and retaking to improve. These are just some basic examples of how a candidate could approach the start of HS.
So what can he do now for leadership?
Join Boy Scouts if he thinks he would like it. My DS joined at 13 or 14 yrs old , loved it, and earned Eagle Scout by his senior year. It’s a great program and the SA’s acknowledge it.
You’re fortunate to have a motivated son at an early age. Help channel his efforts ( don’t think helicopter parent, think mentoring!) so they may become the most effective for him and his goals. Even if he ultimately doesn’t receive an appointment, he will have many solid options available because of his efforts!
If he stays focused and does the work, he will be successful at whatever he ends up doing.
 

Heatherg21

Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
664
Our DS is applying now, and he is considered relatively quiet/stoic by his peers and teachers. He really started to gain more of a voice after competing in the American Legion Oratorical Contest. He was nervous, but public speaking really brought him out of his shell. He has since taken 2nd in the state in that contest and will compete again next year.
Have your son look into being a Boys State nominee his junior year.
And your local veteran's clubs may be a way for him to gain some community service. Ours are always happy to have youth volunteer at their events and our DS has been asked to be a public speaker representing local youth by several of these organizations.
It is really great that your DS is planning ahead. I second what @shock-n-awe said regarding sitting down with the guidance counselor. Our DS did that after 8th grade summer, she and he plotted out his whole high school schedule to make sure he had the courses he needed. He even did one over that summer to make room in his schedule for band and physics. She was a great ally in his life and still is.
Good luck to him, sounds like he is on the right path.
 

AROTC-dad

Moderator
5-Year Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2014
Messages
5,557
The recurring theme here is about "quiet" leaders. I thought it would be relevant to point out that "quiet" does not mean "unassertive."

A quiet leader doesn't hesitate to step up and take charge or initiate change. That person just doesn't beat his chest about it, and or shout out "look what I did!"
 

ders_dad

Member
Joined
Nov 28, 2017
Messages
527
I'm going to put in a stronger plug for Boy Scouts. At age 13 and in 8th grade, your son is still young enough to make Eagle and to also get really valuable leadership opportunities. A lot depends on the troop he joins - shop around and look for a troop where the Scoutmaster and adult leaders emphasize boy-led aspects and are strong adherents to the "patrol method". The quality of the Boy Scout experience is fundamentally dependent on the quality and training of the adult leaders. It has been my experience that troops with a lot of military families are often better run, more organized, and more focused on real advancement and leadership opportunities. But that is only a generality and my DS's troop had no military families at all and was exceedingly good as a leadership laboratory.

My DS is what I would call a "quiet leader" and his leadership style was learned primarily through Scouting. Becoming a good leader means, first and foremost, having many opportunities to observe different leadership styles in your peers and to be able to practice (and fail) at the nuts and bolts of leading. A good Scouting program provides this environment in spades.

There is also a program in Scouting called National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT) that is based on a national program but run by individual Councils that is extremely good (but some Councils do it better than others). It is a one-week program designed to teach up and coming troop leaders (Boy Scouts and Venturers) how to lead effectively and it is organized and executed by senior youth leaders in the Council (with adult guidance). My DS was on staff for 5 years and ran his Council's program last year (finishing 4 days before I-Day at USNA). I highly recommend that all Scouts talk to their Scoutmaster or Venture Crew leader about participating (you have to be 13 and nominated by your leader). Staff for the following year are selected from the participant group, depending on their evaluation. The focus is on servant leadership and the skills and methods to lead. You get to "try on" different leadership styles and find what works for you and your personality. For my DS, this experience became fundamental to his personality as a young man.
 

CuriousDad

Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2019
Messages
15
Glad to see these stories about "quite" children being able to be good leaders too. My DS is like that, but he does well in boy scouts and with church activities. He will probably be a eagle scout. He is only in 9th grade now, so he has time. He wants to do some school clubs too, so hopefully he can be a leader there too.
 

cadette2023

New Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2020
Messages
5
Leadership is something that people often describe in a one dimension. There are a variety of ways to lead. It does not have to be in a loud or confident manner. It could be quiet but persistent leadership. People who lead by example and never quit are some of the best leaders. I have lot of respect for people who just "do it." The people who always set an example and provide advice to me. They can be quiet in large groups but still have a commanding presence. I am glad that the "quiet leader" has been brought up in other replies. However, here are some other things that I have seen in kids that I worked with while in high school.

Allow kids to be kids. Allow them to develop into their own form of leadership and experiment with what works. Give them strong morals, but allow them to be lenient and graceful to others.

Let them fail. Without failure, they will not grow. At 13, they are still in middle school. If they get a C on a test, or even a D, or maybe even an F, its okay. The best leaders are the ones that have experienced failure and can look it in the eye and say "I will try again."

Build grit, determination, curiosity, and creativity. Kids are naturally curious, so rely on that to encourage leadership. Take them to museums and show them history and science. Provide an appreciation for what the past can teach them and inspire them to create something new in the future.

Give them an appreciation of the diversity of others. The best leaders are the ones that can both accept and rely on people with different experiences, beliefs, and ideas.

Anyways... just some food for thought.
 

rjb

5-Year Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2014
Messages
282
I'm going to put in a stronger plug for Boy Scouts. At age 13 and in 8th grade, your son is still young enough to make Eagle and to also get really valuable leadership opportunities. A lot depends on the troop he joins - shop around and look for a troop where the Scoutmaster and adult leaders emphasize boy-led aspects and are strong adherents to the "patrol method". The quality of the Boy Scout experience is fundamentally dependent on the quality and training of the adult leaders.
I was told that 10% of DS's class of 2018 @ USCGA were Boy Scouts and most attained the rank of Eagle Scout. (Also many Girl Scout Gold Awards). It's an elite club!
 

Heatherg21

Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
664
Also, make sure your kiddo (and you) read every drop down for the SA he is interested in. Explore the career options, majors etc. Attend local academy forums, they are great exposure, let your kiddo do the talking.

Also, I cannot say enough about Boys State. Our son went last year, was elected governor, interviewed and was selected for Boys Nation. He is now invited back to boys state as a counselor and incumbent governor. Huge opportunities have come from those experiences. The opportunity to lead the boys that are in attendance was given over and over, and he has since spoken at the Legion State Convention. The Legion has provided many opportunities for him.

Make sure he lets his teachers know that this is a goal. Getting them behind his goal early is important. We are a small school in a rural area, his teachers and staff have know his goal for 4 years. To have them in the office with some of his peers and the secretaries and the superintendent when the appointment call came from USNA (Senator's office called) was invaluable.
I second tutoring, shows a willingness to work with someone to improve. Our son tutors and has asked to mentor one specific freshmen who is at risk. He meets with her twice a week during a study hall, one on one to tutor and discuss making better choices. The office staff included her in the phone call with appointment, she bawled with the rest of us. Shows her hard work and good choices can pay off, another way of leading.


It takes the effort of the student and the parental support, but many people will play a role. Good luck to you and your kiddo, I am sure he will find many places where he can lead and stand out, even if quietly.
 

UHBlackhawk

Member
Joined
Sep 22, 2015
Messages
850
He will learn as much about leadership, followership, sacrifice and other lessons on the hockey rink as he will in any class room. Sports, especially at a higher level, was a major factor in the development of my DD. The physical side, cardio and weight training both in high school and as a D1 athlete helped to prepare her for basic training when she enlisted and helped mold her as a soldier and as a Cadet after she was accepted to USMA.
 

Just Dad

Member
Joined
Sep 14, 2015
Messages
309
Two things:
1) I don't think you need to check all the boxes the same way. I understand that being a team captain is a good thing, but there are "most inspirational player", "most improved player", "most valuable player" awards too. I also think a 16yr old who teaches/coaches younger kids in marksmanship, rock climbing, hockey is doing more than "public service" he/she is also acting as a "Leader" just a different kind of leader.

2) Just my opinion, but I think your son, (all applicants), would be wise to expend some effort on overcoming "Quiet". There are points in the SA admissions process where decisions are made; on which applications move forward, orders of preference are expressed, and comments are attached to applications, following conversations/interviews. Applicants can win or lose interviews, and if everybody has checked "all the boxes" on paper, those interviews become significant differentiators. I'm not talking about "Speechifying" I mean learning to take in verbal information, circumstance, visual cues forming a response/opinion/insight and expressing himself effectively in real-time.

He doesn't have to run for student council. I'd suggest speech and debate electives. You could also concentrate on inquiring into son's views/opinions and exploring/challenging them. When he gets closer to application time, see if you can get other adults to challenge his fit/desire to attend a SA. Responding to those adult questions will deepen his understanding of why he wants an SA and his confidence in his responses. Last: if his Hockey continues to be "not quite Div1", then I'd make the kid apply to bunch (at least 10) D2/D3 schools with a hockey team. Have him write a letter to the coach, follow up with a call expressing his interest in playing Hockey at the school and then take as many in-person or phone interviews with coaches/assistant coaches as he can get. Every resulting interview is a rehearsal for Nomination Boards and B&G gates in the application process! My own DD is really good on the verbal side, but after 15 odd interviews with Dv1 coaches, her interview skills blew me away.

Good Luck. Nice to see a Dad helping his son chase a fabulous opportunity. Kudos for that, and for starting so early. Posts like yours improve my day.

BTW: I'm just a guy with a 1c at the USNA commenting based on what I observed of the process and the feedback my DD received during/after the admissions.
 
Last edited:

arbella13

New Member
Joined
Oct 8, 2019
Messages
6
My son is getting more and more serious about a possibility to attend a Military College. He is interesting in schools with 100% Cadets partisipation. With that said only limits his choice to Service Academies, VMI and Citadel.

One more question I would like to ask.

It appears that all Service Academies have an age restriction of at least 17 years of age on July 1 of the year they enter the academy. It also looks like the same requirement stands even for an Academy prep schools.

According to Citadel website they have and age minimum of at least 17 for the Matriculation (usually mid to late August). So far it looks like that VMI is the only school with an age of 16 allowed for the year of entering.

The reason for this question is that my son will be 17 in September of the year graduating from high school. Does he really have only two options of either VMI or waiting for a year? For now (and I understand he is only 13) his plan A- USMA, Plan B-VMI, Plan C -Citadel.

Thank you in advance for your input.
 

cb7893

5-Year Member
Joined
Dec 6, 2011
Messages
1,836
I am a father of a 13 year’s old 8th grader.
The reason for this question is that my son will be 17 in September of the year graduating from high school.
If your son turned 13 in September 2019 and is an 8th grader, then he will be 17 the year he enters his senior year. Therefore, he will be 17 before July 1 in the year he would graduate and enter an SA.
 
Top