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3. Go

In this activity…

Students identify an everyday leader in their life. Then, students do a 5-minute presentation to the class about the impact that this leader has had, and the characteristics that make them a leader. Students also identify characteristics that they have in common with the leader and describe their leadership potential by identifying one thing they can do, which might catalyze a lollipop moment.

And the point is…

Most students will not have thought about leadership in this way before. Putting leadership into an everyday context is incredibly empowering and inspiring. Students begin to see themselves and others as leaders and use this bottled up potential to drive positive change. By knowing about the impact that one person can have on someone else’s life, many students will find themselves interacting with their family and friends more mindfully.

Recognizing and acknowledging an everyday leader in their life also helps students strengthen and deepen relationships. Not only this, but when students thank an everyday leader for the impact they’ve made, they also educate others about everyday leadership.

Time: 1-2 hours of class time for research and preparation; 5-minutes per student for presentations

Materials: Projector, Lollipops (optional)


Use the final discussion question from the SET activity, to introduce the student's assignment. Students are to select one person from their life who has made a significant positive impact on them. This can be anyone such as an athletic coach, music instructor, previous (or present) teacher, family member (preferably not parents), or friend.

Students will have one week to design and practice a 5-minute PowerPoint Presentation that they will share with the class on the selected date. The presentation should include a brief description of the person, why the student thinks of that person as being an everyday leader, specific examples of their leadership, and at least three characteristics of that person (ex. respectful, kind, empathetic, etc.) that make them a leader.

Finally, every student should end their presentation by identifying similarities between themselves and the leader and describing how they can use these similarities to make a positive impact in the world. For this final part, encourage students to describe a specific action and set a SMART goal to increase their success and accountability.

If possible, encourage students to actually talk to the leader they have identified and conduct an informal interview. Hand each student the presentation instructions and point out that there are example interview questions for students to use if they manage to conduct an informal interview.

Everyday Leadership Presentation Instructions available in the download section.

Each student will be responsible for presenting their slideshow to the class. These presentations can either be done all at once, or they can be broken up over the course of a week. Decide on which method will be most effective and share the presentation date with your students. If possible, bring a bag of lollipops to this lesson and give each student a lollipop along with their presentation instructions to remind them of Dudley’s description of lollipop moments.

Optional Activity

These presentations can be a great way to get family and friends involved. Here are two different ideas to increase students’ engagement in this activity, help students develop a sense of community, and strengthen their relationships:

  1. If possible, give students the opportunity to invite the leader to your class for the presentation day. When a student is giving their presentation, the leader they identified can sit at the front of the class and listen. In this way, the presentation is also a direct acknowledgment of the work that the leader is doing. After the presentation, the class can have two minutes to ask the leader any questions about the work they are doing, what they have learned throughout their life, or the philosophies they have. Adding this component to the activity will increase the amount of time you need to get through all of the presentations, but it also adds an incredible amount of value for the students and the leaders. If you ask students to invite their leaders to the class, then it is recommended that you only do 3-4 presentations a day and spread them out over the course of one or two weeks. Be aware that it may be challenging to coordinate schedules and some students may not be able to bring their leader.  
  2. Instead of having students bring their leader along for the presentation, have students present “normally” and schedule an after-school event that all students and leaders, as well as students’ immediate families (i.e parents or guardians and siblings) are invited to. This event should take place after all students have had the opportunity to do their presentations. The event can be as simple as inviting leaders and families to your class (or the gymnasium) for refreshments and mingling, or students can help you organize a larger event where you and your students can reflect on the school year, where students can talk about what they’ve learned, and where you might have a barbeque or cake to celebrate and thank everyone for being an everyday leader.

Are leaders born or made?

The answer to this question really depends on who you ask. Some people would argue that leaders are born. That they come into this world with a natural capacity to lead and that others don’t, and that there’s not much you can do about it. However, this belief embodies a fixed mindset. I agree more with people who believe that leadership is a skill that can be learned and developed through practice, effort and time. This doesn’t mean that everyone takes the same leadership journey or that there’s no such thing as advantages and disadvantages when it comes to being a leader. Indeed, some people can be thought of as being born leaders because they have natural characteristics and personalities that align with being a leader. Similarly, there are some people who, no matter how hard they try, will never feel comfortable taking on a leadership position. But the vast majority of us will neither be destined nor doomed when it comes to leadership. I think that this is where the real leadership potential lies. Your experiences, relationships, thoughts and beliefs shape who you are and therefore also your leadership abilities. So, what does it take to become a leader? Some people argue that “the single most powerful way to grow as a leader [is to] become truly self-aware”. To become truly self-aware, you need to recognize your strengths and weaknesses, understand the impact you have on others, know your values and what you stand for, and consider whether your actions line up with your words. Becoming aware of these things and keeping an open mind while you do so, will help anyone grow into a leadership position.

How am I supposed to understand the kind of leader I want to be or the influence I want to have on others?

You will likely find it helpful to reflect on your values. Recall that you identified two personal values at the beginning of the school year. Keeping these values in mind, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is important to me?
  • How do I want to be remembered?
  • What strengths do I have that could help me contribute to the school or community in a positive way?
  • What capacities do I already have or what activities am I already doing that I could build on?
  • What’s something small that I can implement without changing my everyday routine?

Remember that being a leader does not involve changing who you are. Instead, it involves being your best self and helping others be their best selves. You can influence others by something as simple as smiling and saying, “Good morning” to everyone you pass on your walk to school, by holding the door open when you come in from recess, or by helping someone pick up a book they dropped. These are all things that don’t require you to change anything about your daily routine. Instead, they challenge you to more mindfully interact with others and to show-up in this world with a greater awareness, empathy, compassion and respect for everyone (including yourself).

How do I know if I am a ‘real’ leader?

The answer to this question goes back to how you define leadership. What do you mean by a “real” leader? What would make a leader fake? Most people think of “real” leaders as high-achieving, famous people who are already outstanding in a leadership role. But this is dangerous for several reasons, some of which we talked about earlier. By thinking of leadership in this way, you are making it something bigger than yourself, and something that can only be accomplished in some distant future. This prevents you from taking action in the here-and-now. Not only this but defining leaders by their success and their current abilities in an established position diminishes the work, failure, rejection, and hardships that so many leaders had to go through to get to where they are today. Diminishing these parts of their journey only makes leadership seem even more out of reach. Therefore, it’s best not to define “real” leaders in this way. In reality, you become a “real” leader when you commit to being the best person you can be and to showing up in the world with a brave heart, open mind, and kind soul.

Why do I sometimes feel like a fraud as a leader?

This is a question of confidence. The simplest definition of confidence, as stated in the Oxford Dictionary, is that confidence is a “state of feeling certain about the truth of something”. If you do not feel certain about your ability to be a leader then, whenever you step into a leadership position, you will feel like a fraud. You might be telling yourself things like, “If only they knew that I can’t actually do this”, “I am going to be responsible for the failure of this team”, or “I am not cut out for this”. Being confident in yourself and your leadership abilities involves respecting and trusting yourself, giving yourself the permission to be human and make mistakes, and having self-compassion.

Do I need to have a fancy title to be a leader?

No! In fact, everyday leadership is all about trying to debunk this myth. Think back to Drew Dudley’s TED Talk. Do you think that he had a fancy title handing out lollipops for a charitable cause? He definitely did not. Being a leader doesn’t have to involve being the President of a company or the captain of a sports team. You don’t have to be at the front of the pack to be a leader. True leadership is about having the capacity to influence others by inspiring and empowering them. Everyone has that capacity, and everyone can be a leader, regardless of whether or not they have a title.

How can I help others be everyday leaders?

Based on this lesson, you would probably agree that simply learning about everyday leadership and redefining leadership has made a huge impact on the way you think about yourself and others. Do you feel inspired or empowered? Do you believe in your ability to make a change? Do you recognize how small, unnoticeable deeds have the potential to change the world?

The easiest way to help others discover their leadership capacity is to teach them about everyday leadership and to help them debunk the myths or misconceptions about leadership. Show them Drew Dudley’s TED Talk or simply share your new-and-improved definition of leadership with them. Try acknowledging and bringing to their attention moments where they were (or are) being leaders. Help them build their confidence and self-esteem. But, most importantly, be a good role model. Be a leader in your everyday life and bring them along for the ride. Soon enough, they’ll want to take the wheel as well.