Theories in Action : Kids and Leadership


I have been working at Youth Life Southwood,a nonprofit organization that focuses on working with at-risk kids on furthering their education and learning development. Youth life’s mission is to create long-lasting relationships with children from at-risk communities in the Richmond area. The goal is by starting at a young age (K-5) students will have a support system that not only academically challenges them, but builds character, raises expectations, and commits 100% to a child: hoping to create leaders of tomorrow. The vision is simple “is to nurture the child, strengthen the family, and rebuild the community”. 

In the program I work with all different children, who have different needs and ways of learning. In order to lead and communicate effectively the lessons I have been teaching, I have adapted the situational leadership theory. Situational leadership is the theory that the most effective leaders adapt their style to the situation. As touched on previously before this includes the dynamics of the group, how task-focused the group is in their duties, the inner relations of group members, and how well they all work and fit together. The key to situational leadership is trying to reach the most effective way to yield the best results and get the job done. Hersey and Blanchard adopted this theory and also is like the grid theory because it contains distinct quadrants:


Telling (S1): In this leadership style, the leader tells people what to do and how to do it.

Selling (S2): This style involves more back-and-forth between leaders and followers. Leaders “sell” their ideas and message to get group members to buy into the process.

Participating (S3): In this approach, the leader offers less direction and allows members of the group to take a more active role in coming up with ideas and making decisions

Delegating (S4): This style is characterized by a less involved, hands-off approach to leadership. Group members tend to make most of the decisions and take most of the responsibility for what happens.

In order to use this theory effectively the person to use (me) must be flexible and willing to easily adapt to the situation at hand. When working with children this is a must. You may have an entire lesson plan for the day and they don’t finish the first problem or even have learned what you brought to the table. In these tricky situations you must be willing to switch the entire lesson on a dime. For example, I work with Kimberly and Kelly, two children entering into the fifth grade. Kelly needs a more telling style of leadership when it comes to learning while Kimberly who is quick to learn needs more delegating.