People management is a challenge for any leader, regardless of your age.

Coming up against challenging students, rather than lack of planning, is the biggest problem for many student leaders.

Let’s take a deeper look.

Imagine a school School Representative Council decided to hold Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea at their school as a fund-raiser. The student leaders may think it’s great but how do they get their idea off the ground?

The best idea will fall at the first hurdle if students they haven’t considered how to sell their idea to others, and get around challenges.

Let’s face it, it’s usually fellow students and teachers (yes, student-led ideas often need to be sold to teachers), not processes, that derail many student projects.

People follow people, not ideas.

How to help

When a leader, or a group of leaders, decide on a project that they’d like to introduce to others ask them to consider how to approach each of the following groups :

1. The owners (of the idea): This group usually includes those who thought of the idea. No convincing needed!

2. The supporters: This group usually consists of friends of student leaders. They will generally agree that the holding Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea is a great idea. They’ll agree with most things their friends suggest and they are easily adopted as assistants.

3. The stakeholders: Students need to then consider all the stakeholders (people who are affected in some way by the project) such as principal, staff, parents, community groups in the project. These groups need to be communicated with to ensure there are no objections. It is often this group where objections come from if not consulted.

4. The resisters: This group of students will actively resist the idea for any number of reasons. It is important that students find out why these groups are resisting and look for ways to overcome any objections.

5. The saboteurs: These people actively work to make sure the project doesn’t go ahead. Students can easily sabotage a project,  working to make sure the event doesn’t happen. Excuses are trotted out, alternate events are conducted and smear campaigns occur.

6.The apathetic block: Apathetic students can be on organising committees as well as the general population. This group can easily derail a project due to their negativity. At times it is best to go around them. At other times it maybe best to give them small roles or tasks to involve them. It is important though that this group doesn’t derail their project due to their ‘don’t care’ attitude.

Add people skills to your leadership system

Look for ways to make people management part of your student leadership system. That way, you can be proactive as a class teacher or student leadership teacher in your support of leaders.

Make sure you discuss people management at your regular leadership support meetings. Holding open-ended discussion about the difficulties of communicating with and gaining co operation of others is a great way to support young leaders.

Handling tricky situations is also an area where mentors can really assist young leaders.

Passing on wisdom gained from experience is invaluable for students, particularly those in a leadership role. It’s also a great way to build a rich culture of student leadership.

There’s no doubt a dynamic, effective student leadership program needs to incorporate people management skills so students feel equipped to manage the challenges that leadership provides.

Register for our next Discovery Session to find out how the Young Leaders Program can benefit your school. Join the community of schools who receive regular tips and strategies from the Young Leaders team.