Here at Halogen, we’re all too familiar with the prevailing misconceptions about leadership. Students attending Halogen’s nationwide IMAGINATION events often tell us that because they’re not an official leader, with a badge to prove it, they don’t feel that they have a mandate to influence to create change. Or, in the case of those who have been bestowed an official leadership mantle, they simply don’t know where to start.

As a student, it is easy to succumb to overly complex and off-putting conceptions of leadership that are directly or indirectly communicated through school hierarchies, the media, politics and extracurricular activities.

Halogen’s mission to inspire a generation to lead themselves and others well, requires a focus upon and commitment to breaking through these mythological barriers, empowering young leaders to take a risk and trust their capabilities, reassuring them along the way, that we adults, as role-models and mentors, will always ‘have their back’.

Read on for some myth-busting leadership advice from recent Halogen events…

Myth 1 - Being a leader means saying 'yes' to everything you're asked to do

In this entrepreneurial age, there’s a perception that saying ‘yes’ more often will open up opportunities like you’ve never imagined and take you on a healthy excursion well beyond your comfort zone. But it is also important to give our young leaders permission to say no when they need to.

Maybe the task at hand isn’t something that will help them reach their goal; or perhaps their plate is full of other demands. Either way, having the confidence to say no will help students take control of key decisions and develop the skills to look after their mental health in professional lives to come.

“It’s OK to say no. You are not disappointing people. Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do.” Mel Doyle, Journalist


Myth 2 - Being a leader means you need to always do what everyone else thinks is best

Often student leaders are well liked and popular amongst their peers and this can be helpful when their role is to represent the wider student body to the school executive. But what happens when a leader feels differently to everyone else? Having the confidence to trust their instincts when they’re in the minority can be challenging for adolescents, given their preference for group affiliation and a compelling need to ‘belong’. Similarly, as a youth voice in an adult context, student leaders often doubt the validity of their insights, believing that the ‘grown ups’ probably know better. As supportive adults, let’s nurture our student leaders to develop a self-belief based on reflection, critical thinking and strategic approaches to problem solving.

“Have the confidence to believe in what you are doing and the perseverance to stick with it long enough so others have the chance to believe in it too.” Harry Baker, Slam Poet

Myth 3 - Leaders must know how to make good decisions quickly

When we take on a leadership role, it can be very intimidating to know that others are looking to us for quick and decisive action leading to a good outcome. But, it’s simply unfair and unrealistic to expect that leaders will always know what to do straight away. If that were the case, then why would good leaders bother to invest time and energy in building a trusted team of advisers?

Leadership is about asking questions, evaluating recommendations, playing to individual strengths and making informed choices. That process can be time-consuming and often frustrating. But, it invariably results in a better outcome than the ‘knee-jerk reaction’ approach. Give your student leaders time, space and resources to work meaningfully with each other and experience the worthwhile process of participative decision-making.

“Leadership is about making the right decisions because they are right, not because they are easy.” Benjamin Roberts-Smith VC MG

As a leadership mentor, what myths are you 'busting' this week? Share them with us in the comments below or on Twitter!


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