Impact of Leadership & Life Skills Programs
Programs developing leadership and life skills transform people from those in need into those who not only help themselves but also others around them. By enabling young people and adults alike to see the worth and strength in themselves, these programs empower people to discover and define their identities as complete, healthy individuals. These healthy attitudes also make these individuals the most effective agents of change in their families and communities—agents who can transform their toxic environments rather than just cope with them.
Many people living in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods have to face the obstacles of poverty in isolation. The trauma of chronic hopelessness and disempowerment can lead to dangerous criminal risk-taking, substance abuse, domestic violence, depression, or even suicide. Empowering community leaders not only challenges the cycles of poverty and violence at work in many communities, but also changes its people in more invisible ways. It offers hope and the strength to refuse a life of simply getting by.
Leadership skills and life skills go hand-in-hand. Before young people or adults can adopt leadership roles in the community, they must have some foundational skills to give them more control over their own lives. Some of these skills are learned in academic classrooms, but many are not. Beyond basic verbal and written communication skills, young people need to learn how to present themselves in a job interview, how to conduct themselves when at work, and how to work well with others through collaboration and compromise, among many other essential life skills. Programs that give people a chance to develop these skills prepare them not only for better employment opportunities, but also for more substantial and influential ways to be leaders.
The most important part of teaching leadership is helping people see they are responsible for their own lives. Also crucial is helping people realize that they have the ability to set goals and achieve them. Learning to develop their positive attributes makes people self-confident and independent thinkers. The primary role of a good leader is to determine community or family values, develop vision and strategy to best realize those values, enact that change, and finally to invite and inspire others to join and assume leadership roles of their own.
To be effective leaders, individuals need to develop a wealth of skills: the ability to communicate, take initiative, plan, organize, and make decisions and judgments. Leaders must also learn to be flexible, assertive, objective, perceptive, sensitive, and have a spirit of collaboration. All of these qualities have their roots in basic life skills, but each needs to be cultivated over time to grow. In this approach, leaders are not made overnight; instead they are trained and supported throughout their development. Leadership, like all other skills, is the product of the long-practiced mix of natural gifts and opportunities for those gifts to thrive.
For young people, assuming leadership roles and working to better the community are important parts of developing fully into adulthood. These critical skill sets are reinforced by succeeding in school, having solid parental support and positive mentors, valuing good self-esteem, and contributing service to others. The Claretians understand this intertwined reality, which is why all of their programs don’t just focus on one aspect of this development, but on every aspect simultaneously. The Claretians work to develop leaders who represent family and community concerns in the public decision-making process over the long-term.
Read more about tCI's impact through leadership and life skills programs on our Impact Blog.