Dr. Scott Klungseth, Director of Beresford PRCE and Assistant Professor of Education at Dakota State University, offers his top 10 elements necessary for growth and becoming a successful leader—in the field of afterschool and beyond.
The saying, "Want to be better? Don't settle!" drives leaders to be lifelong learners. Leaders need to be constantly searching for new activities, strategies or anything to create improvement—including research through constant inquiry. This give and take process works toward enhancing knowledge and solving problems, and demonstrates a desire to improve, enhance a vision, and identify and solve problems.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
As we become older and more experienced, our thought processes become less elastic and it can become difficult to foster our own creativity. Thinking outside the box can help!
Some of the most creative resources are the youth you serve. Developing environments that allow youth to be creative also allows the leader to observe what they do and let them teach you new, effective activities. One of the best ways to be creative is to simply take a little bit of time to examine equipment and the available space and simply allow your brain to flow.
Many feel self-promotion is self-serving, therefore distasteful. In reality, self-promotion is a leadership skill. A leader's responsibility includes talking to the team about successes—and self-promotion can be the basis of building relationships with key stakeholders and gaining access to professional networks. With this mindset, self-promotion takes on a new purpose. Leaders who let others know of accomplishments create a value proposition, which can be used to initiate other projects or ideas.
Leaders who excel understand that listening means more than hearing. When people talk and are listened to, they are more likely to open up and become more trusting. Leaders who excel realize that when they listen and reflect on what they have heard, they can help others become conscious of talents and interests. As a result, this creates self-awareness: an essential skill to advance in life.
To serve as a mentor, leaders must put themselves into others' shoes and see the situation from their perspective—giving successful interaction a chance. When leaders refrain from entering into potentially contentious situations and instead work to understand the perspective of others, relationships have the potential to improve and become stronger.
Leaders are not afraid or threatened by the success of others they lead! They show that they appreciate the effort of others and take time to demonstrate how much of a measurable impact they are having; they feel good about what they do and take those feelings beyond the walls.
TAKE A RISK
Without risk-taking, leaders can become stagnant, predictable and ultimately complacent. Risks push leaders to operate outside of their comfort zone—with good judgment, of course. Risk-taking is an increasingly critical element of leadership and is essential for a leader's effectiveness. There's usually a fear of failure, success, ignorance or of being too aggressive. Taking risks means confronting the fears/challenges and possessing courage to move forward. Courageous leadership means taking a risk, no matter how small. Leaders are able to minimize the fallout whenever possible and develop plans to re-execute with necessary changes.
Passionate leaders naturally create an exciting environment that energizes others. However, leaders understand that it takes more than excitement to fully create engagement. They know that key ingredients for participants to excel include involvement, communication and transparency. Individuals want to be in places where their leaders are passionate and communicate that passion every day, in myriad ways. Followers who feel trusted and involved come to share the same passions as their leaders and solidify their dedication to their organizations.
Leaders share power, authority, credit, recognition and the rewards produced by the collective efforts of the entire group. The best leaders—who inspire and motivate—also share the work along the way, knowing they can't do it all by themselves. This does not simply mean delegation; sharing and advocating goes much deeper. When leading a group of unique individuals toward a vision, achieving clarity can be a challenge. Leaders must be persistent and determined to advocate for the group's success.
Transformational leaders exemplify the behaviors and characteristics they encourage. As a result, group members admire these leaders and can be motivated to emulate their behaviors and work together. Collaborative—or evidence-based—decision-making is just what it sounds like: leaders gathering their teams and requesting feedback and insight.
Leaders who foster intellectual stimulation encourage innovation and creativity, as well as critical thinking and problem-solving. This involves arousing followers' thoughts and imagination and challenging their ability to identify and solve problems creatively. People admire leaders who develop curiosity, challenge thinking and learning, and encouraging openness to new inspiring ideas.
Be a leader! Why not?
Dr. Scott Klungseth is the Director of Beresford PRCE which oversees the Watchpuppy Pre-School, After-School and Summer Kids Connection, and Family-Based Recreation Programs in Beresford, South Dakota. Dr. Klungseth also serves as an Asst. Professor of Education at Dakota State University and is one of the inaugural NAA/TOY Association National Play Ambassadors.