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Ingredients of Girls in Leadership

Years ago during my clinical training, one of my mentors told me that working with teenagers would be somewhat of a difficult task. She knew that I expressed an interest in learning more about the population of young children and teenagers. I’ll also never forget that she said “girls who are natural born leaders also tend to possess certain qualities that make them attract others…like empathy and sensitivity.”

Back then in my early twenties, I processed long and hard about what she said. At first, I thought that leaders tended to be mostly bossy, aggressive and opinionated people. The list goes on, but I thought for some reason that their genetic makeup took on to a sort of take-charge attitude towards the world. But, what I learned along the way is quite the contrary.

Girl leaders in the making definitely have common characteristics that make them unique. From years of working and interviewing teenage girls, and through my own personal insights, I discovered how girls attempt to unlock their leadership potential. Now that I’m a mom, I can’t help but look at my own daughters as they experience their own journey of adolescence. I often ask myself, will they flourish as leaders based on the environments they’re exposed to in school or out of school, or at home? Or does school even have anything to do with the way they carry themselves on a daily basis?

Perhaps it’s ingrained in their personalities, where leaders have an innate sense of direction and how they choose to interact and engage. My daughters are at an age where they are still trying to figure out who they are and where they belong in the world. They for sure don’t follow the crowd, or go with what’s common or popular. As much as they are very different in their personalities, they both have some common leadership traits. Being that these years for them are very challenging, I’m curious to know how and where their capabilities will lead them. These are purely my discoveries and based on my own experiences. And…my perceptions come from not only my girls, but from observing other girls in the same age range.

They know how to listen to others and show compassion.

They are empathetic and sensitive when it comes to differences (note: this does not always hold true when it comes to my daughters rivaling!)

They have a certain passion and drive that stands out amongst girls the same age. It’s not even all based on intelligence or grades.

They know how to disagree and assert themselves without being aggressive (although others might misconstrue their tactics).

They know how to be a stand up person without following the majority. They stand up for what they believe is the right thing.

They most often show optimism and see the glass half full rather than half empty.

Girl leaders have good critical thinking skills and can think “outside the box.”

Showing confidence without being arrogant. The know-it-all girls do not fit into this category whatsoever.

Accepting failure and moving forward. Oh boy. This one is definitely too hard for me to personally determine right now since both my daughters haven’t experienced enough failures in their life to see how they will conquer them. Disappointments and let downs have occurred, and there have been heartaches along the way, but mostly from outside circumstances.

My interpretation of accepting failure is based on how girls will view their own perception of failure. It also depends on how well they know their own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, “did I fail because I didn’t do my best?” or “did I fail because I gave it my all but I wasn’t the most capable person?” Or, “was my failure out of my control?”

No matter how or what the aspirations are for girls being or becoming leaders, and this goes for my own daughters as well - leadership qualities are no doubt recognizable. My hope is that all girls and women will feel empowered to see their potentials, recognize that they are without a doubt capable. However, the age-old question remains…are leaders born or made?

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