Leadership is an important skill for students in middle and high school to acquire. While they will continue to hone their leadership style through college and their careers, students can benefit from gaining an early understanding of what makes a great leader and what holds someone back from becoming a respected leader. At our SuperCamp learning and life skills programs, we put a great deal of focus on the subject of leadership. In fact, returning students are able to join a Leadership Training Team for 10 days and a year later they’re able to participate in a seven-day Leadership Forum program. We’ve compiled a list of 12 leadership qualities and 10 leadership pitfalls that can help guide students in their understanding of leadership.

Courage may be required to follow through, even in the face of uncertainty or the presence of fear. This means making decisions for the good of others that may render you temporarily unpopular.

Leaders set an example with their ability to control erratic behavior, unpredictable emotions, and unproductive or negative thoughts. Peers will only respect a leader who can rise above circumstances and maintain personal and group stability.

Sense of Justice
Leaders must make sure that what they seek is best for all parties involved. It’s important to consider everyone’s
point of view as equally valid, and then make the choice that appears to be most beneficial for most people.

Always Have a Plan
Leaders plan their work, and then work their plan. While leaders need to remain flexible, they always must start out with a desired outcome and a plan on how to get it.

Go the Extra Mile
Setting an example is what leaders do, and this means doing more than what’s expected. Leaders task themselves. They do not wait for anyone to tell them to start or complete work.

Pleasing Personality
The best leaders always greet others cordially with a smile, ask how they’re doing and listen to their response. Model leaders do not use profanity, put-downs, or sarcasm.

Compassion and Understanding
Effective leaders take the time to understand another’s world from their point of view. Leaders expand their own world to include perspectives of others and avoid “selling” their idea of how the world works to others.

Master of Detail
Leaders take the time to learn how to master details, nuances, and subtleties and then discipline themselves to follow through with them. It’s the details that add up to the whole, and if ignored they will eventually cause problems.

Accept Responsibility
Leaders accept their failures as learning experiences and move on. At the same time, leaders give others credit for success, knowing it would not have been achieved without the support of others.

Cooperate and Play as a Team
Leaders know how to make decisions and take actions that align with the theory of synergy. They understand that any decision has the potential to affect many people.

Great leaders examine their actions and their values to ensure they align. Leaders walk their talk—every second of every day.

Be Real
The most true and honorable gift a leader can provide to his peers is to be real. Leaders must be willing to embody truth, even at the perceived risk of “being vulnerable.” Vulnerability is strength.


Leadership Pitfalls

Unwillingness to Render Humble Service
At any time, a leader may need to do the work of others, or do the work that no one else wants to do. It means picking up a piece of trash, holding a meeting at an inconvenient time, taking care of a problem when it occurs, etc.

Unwillingness to Document One’s Work
A true leader wants to empower others by giving them the advantage of documenting their mistakes and successes. It is best to take the time to record what is working and what isn’t.

Fear of Competition
Leaders who fear that others will take their job away is unlikely to be a leader for long. A leader’s role is to empower others. The extent to which a person can train and empower other leaders is the extent to which his value is heightened.

Lack of Imagination
In order to meet emergencies, a leader will need creativity and imagination. Even routine tasks, if done five percent differently each time, facilitate change and growth. Leaders foster this type of thinking in others, as well.

The great leader claims none of the credit and takes all of the responsibility. Someone who continually withholds or takes credit away from others will be met with resentment and sabotage.

Lack of Discipline in Personal Life
A common fault in leaders who fall from grace is a lack of discipline in their personal lives. To look, sound, and be successful, one must exercise their physical and mental body, nurture relationships, and avoid inappropriate relationships.

Without a loyal peer group and staff, a leader has nothing. To engender loyalty, a leader must begin by being loyal to others.

Being Authoritarian
Leaders who lead by fear aren’t effective leaders for long. The best style of leadership is to serve by example, negotiation, and shared outcomes.

Insistence on Being Right
Leaders who more often think their position is the “right” one possess a narrow reality. Conversely, strong leaders endeavor to find common ground instead of a battleground.

Failure to Include the Larger Picture
Many leaders get tripped up when they are motivated by one goal, such as when a business leader’s decisions are driven solely by the profit of the company. The best leaders make their decisions based both on the impact on those closest to the decision and those potentially affected indirectly or at some point in the future.

With these principles to guide them, students will be on the path toward becoming positive and successful leaders in their organizations and in life.