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Leadership Learned By Doing | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

Leadership Learned By Doing

'Hot Dog' photo (c) 2010, Evan Swigart - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Real leadership is learned by really doing something, start to finish,” is the abiding philosophy of Vanderburgh County’s 4-H Junior Leader program.  The Junior Leaders, in grades 8 through 12, learn those leadership skills most especially during the Vanderburgh County Fair. They plan, run, and manage a food concessions booth that succeeds or fails by the quality of their efforts.

It was explained to me once: in the real world, in a real job, if people don’t show up to work their shifts, Superman doesn’t fly through the back door to save the day for those in charge. They have to solve their own problems. In the solving, they develop their leadership skills. That’s how the Junior Leader booth works.

If the kids work hard and plan well, they will raise funds. If they make mistakes or don’t work hard, their profit margin diminishes.

Parents are not allowed to fly into the booth to save the day for the teens. Their club advisors advise but don’t save the day.

So how do the kids do? My opinion is biased; last year, my daughter was treasurer. In addition, the Junior Leaders lend their concession booth (which they personally built and financed) to 4-H Leaders so we can raise funds to lower expenses for our county’s members – we serve breakfast daily at the fair, borrowing their booth. So each year during fair week, I’ve seen these kids work hard.

Most of them bust their tails and have fun while they are working. Most are team players.  Sure, there’s teen drama just as there is in any workplace or environment full of teens during a hot summer week. And just like any food service business, there are plenty of practical problem-solving experiences each hour the concession booth is open.

As I see these teens progress, volunteering in the booth from one year to the next, I see their growing in self confidence, developing skills to assume bigger responsibilities. Many who graduate return to help new youth throughout the 4-H program. Lessons learned, ready to pass to the next generation.

Sometimes the best lessons in life are learned by closing your mouth, rolling up your sleeves, and working with others to reach a common goal, find common ground, and build something new.

And they learn some marketing as well. As my kids tell me every day of fair:

Eat at the Junior Leader booth!


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