by Chris Smith
This is what comes to my mind when I think about the word "leadership." Nowadays, a lot of people take one look at a teen and say, "Oh well, he is no good." They might say this because of the way a teen is dressed or just because they have seen so much negative publicity about teens in the media. It can be very hard for people, teens especially, to show leadership with today's media and the one pounding thought in their brains: "I MUST be cool."
I know what it is like. I most of the time do what my friends do and dress the certain way they dress - but still, I give myself some boundaries. I mean, I've been told all my life to forget what others think and do what I want to do. But it isn't easy. I have kept cool and still showed great leadership at times by telling myself before I do something, "What will happen if I do/go somewhere"?
For example, most of my friends wear the current style baggy pants. I do too - even though some people associate that with gangster-type people. But it doesn't mean that for me - it doesn't hurt anyone (or myself) - and I like it. That's ok. So then my friends decide to go to the mall after school. I go with them. That's cool. Then they all go to the back of the mall and pull out a pack of cigarettes and offer one to me. Here's where I change and do my own thing. I say no. If I did accept, then I would be showing weakness and being a follower instead of a Leader. I guarantee you, 99% of the time if you say no, others might call you a loser or a chicken, but a day or so later, they will have forgotten all about it. For them, your "no" answer really means little, but for you, it means a lot.
It is important for teens (and all people really) to stand up for what they truly believe in. It is important to say, "no" or "yes" when you really feel it. It's also important to really feel things! I think a lot of teens are not trying to figure out what they really believe in. They go along with what others are doing because they want to be cool, or they want to belong, or they don't have the time to think otherwise. Teens need to recognize who they are and what they believe in. To be a leader, you don't always have to lead. You can follow sometimes - if it makes sense. You can't lead all of the time (who would like that?). To be a leader is to stand up for what you believe in when it's most important - to do what you know is right - to lead your life!
One of the things I recognize that has helped me to feel like I can be a leader is that I have people in my life who care. My mom especially has always been there for me. With no dad around and no brothers or sisters, she relies on me a lot - and I rely on her a lot. But like all moms and sons, we have our arguments too. And no matter how mad I might get at her sometimes, I know she is always looking out for my best interests. She is by far the closest and most essential mentor I have. When I do something wrong, she may get in her mom-mode, but she still loves me and tomorrow will still be there. When I am falling behind or feel I am not taking leadership in my life, she raises my confidence and boosts my self esteem. I wish all teens (all people) had someone like my mom in their lives. So when they feel lost, they would have a landmark. There are a lot of people who do care - and would care - but teens may not know this. Sometimes they just need to ask for help - and believe that help will be there - somehow. It's important to believe you will get what you need.
School, I believe, is the hardest area in which to show leadership. In the back of your mind, your peers are your fears. If you don't impress them, then you may find yourself friendless. So constantly, whether we mean to or not, we are acting to impress - to try to fit in - or to be an "individual" and stand strong on our own. School has been very tough for me, with peer-pressure and all. But I always try to remember, that everyone else is mostly just like me. And just because one person does not like me, it doesn't mean no one will ever like me.
After high school, I have plans to go to college because I know I want to do something later in my life that will require higher education. Most colleges and employers look for potential leaders. So it is important to me that I try to be a leader when I can - that I take risks, that I try to do my best work (well . . . most of the time!), that I take action when I believe I should, that I stand up for what is right, that I just keep on trying and not give up!
About the author
Christopher Smith is 15, and a 10th grader at The Center School, a small public high school located in the Seattle Center. He is interested in web design, ultimate frisbee, basketball, snow boarding, writing, astronomy, and math.
© August 2003
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