[July 6, 2016] Being a teenager means overcoming day-to-day issues on the transition from childhood to being an adult. For those who strive to be leaders, this time is even more difficult time because the teens are only beginning to gain crucial experience and knowledge for leadership success. That is why, more than anything else, teenagers need a knowledgeable, long-term mentor to guide them through this time.
Teenagers at 18 years of age are allowed to enter the military and yet often lack some of the more basic leader and social skills that enable them to do well. With only some minor training, the military has found that most of those young soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines perform far above their peers in a number of scenarios. Why is this? Those in the military have an experienced, dedicated service member who will teach and ensure they are making the right decisions.
The reasons whey teenagers need a committed mentor who can help guide them to transition to adulthood is a complex matter and opinions vary greatly. What we do know is that the teenage years meet neither the social definition of child or adult and thus some confusion is bound to happen. Some suggest that the increase in fatherless families is a factor, others say the lack of discipline in school or at home, and there is also the ever present attraction to drugs and alcohol. Regardless of the reason, the right mentor that will stick with the teen is the key to their present and future success.
This quasi-dependent state of the teenage years is however one of the most important times when leadership skills are formed. The right mentor at the right time will help them over the teenage years but more importantly, that mentor can help establish the teenager into adulthood. That is why most teenage mentor programs are not truly about mentorship but simply about building social skills or are entertainment programs where the so-called “mentors” have no experience, commitment, or special knowledge.
Mentors must be dedicated and their time doesn’t stop when the teen finishes high school (or if they finish at all) or gets a reliable job. The mentorship, to turn teenagers into great leaders, must be continuous. It is no surprise that school mentor programs don’t achieve much in the way of improving leadership or longer-term independence and integration into society as a whole. They are simply a snapshot in time with rotating, ill-equipped persons hired off the street to fulfill a role they are not qualified for.1
The most important thing for a dedicated mentor to have is passion and purpose to arouse the spirit of those mentored.2 But they also need to have proven skills and experience to teach leadership … the philosophy of leadership, how it’s employed, and it’s used for the good of all. That is why having mentors for teenagers is so crucial.
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- A good example of a mentoring program that works is the Harlem YMCA that partners African-American professionals with youths who need and want help. See their website here: http://www.ymcanyc.org/harlem/pages/teen-mentoring
- How to be a Great Mentor: A List of 10 – https://www.theleadermaker.com/great-mentor-list-10/
- Mentees: Who Are They? – https://www.theleadermaker.com/mentees-who-are-they/
- Characteristic #11: Mentor Essentials (Part 1) – https://www.theleadermaker.com/characteristic-11-mentor-leaders-part-1/
- Characteristic #12: Mentor Essentials (Part 2) – https://www.theleadermaker.com/characteristic-12-mentor-leaders-part-2/