9 Unique Youth Leadership Capacities

posted in: Youth Leadership | 0













Ayesha and Somesh want to develop youth leadership capacities.

Ayesha works at a women’s rights NGO and wants to work with college students on gender issues. She is having a hard time convincing her colleagues to do a gender workshop in a local college. The college has already proposed a date for the workshop. But her boss has more or less rejected her idea as her organisation’s core competency is legal work.

Ayesha wonders if only she could do this on her own. But how?

Ayesha’s friend Somesh has just started studying at university. He hates going to college because he dislikes the boring lectures. He wishes his professors would make classes more interesting.

Both Ayesha and Somesh want change but they don’t really know how to bring it about?

Why Are Youth Leadership Capacities Important?

Have you ever been in a similar situation like Ayesha and Somesh? If your answer is yes, then you’ve probably felt the same dissatisfaction and the desire to bring change by talking to other young people like yourself. Youth are far more open to the idea of changing than older people.

If you are someone who wants to work with youth, you have to develop your capacity as a youth worker. That is why you need to have a set of leadership capacities which are more than just skills.

Skills are only the tip of the iceberg. Your values, attitudes and beliefs that are below the iceberg are what needs to change the most if you want to change the world around you.

So what are these capacities? Let’s go through this unique list of 9 such capacities.

What are Youth Leadership Capacities?

1. Deep Self-Awareness

Being self-aware doesn’t require sitting on a mountain top and meditating for years to find who you are. Understanding yourself cannot be done in isolation.

Deep self-awareness comes when you take a deep dive within to explore what lies below the iceberg to learn about yourself, your stories and how you relate with others.

You can start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What is my purpose? How do I find it?
  • What are my values and how did I acquire them?
  • What are my beliefs? Are they true?
  • What can I do to live upto my full potential?
  • What kind of relationships do I want to build with others?
  • What are my fears? How can I work with them?
  • What is my place in the world that surrounds me?

If you don’t know certain things yet, that’s alright. Confusion and doubt are not necessarily a bad thing. They help us to be open and curious about the world.

The intention here is to make you think and give you a headstart in the process of self-discovery.

Self-awareness can be developed in a lot of fun ways through conversations, games, activities and creative exercises. There’s even a fun app called The Unknown I-Land, designed by CYC, which helps you discover yourself as a leader.

If you want to attend a self-awareness workshop, consider attending a workshop by Pravah (Delhi). Such a workshop will give you the tools to understand yourself better.

2. Refl-action





Reflaction turns the traditional idea of education on its head. It is different from how we are taught in a classroom. It means taking action is an important part of the learning process.

When you observe actions that take place around you, reflect upon them and learn from them, it’s called refl-action. It is the capacity to think, take a step towards change and then reflect on the step you took. So, reflection must precede and succeed action.

Reflaction happens after mindful observation and is followed by action grounded in careful consideration.

Every young leader and youth worker needs to observe the world around them, think about it, pause, reflect and then create a Reflaction plan

3. Ownership

Ownership starts with YOU. Owning your identity and taking full responsibility for your actions can feel scary sometimes. But it’s the first step towards changing something in the world.  

Taking responsibility for your own actions prepares you to take ownership. As a youth worker you will have to co-create a group, team or a common space you share with others that you feel you want to change for the better in some way.

So, how do you become a real owner? The real owner of a space is a person who inhabits it and nurtures it to make it meaningful.

Young people can develop ownership skills when they take full responsibility with other youth in a group and take decisions together.

5. Systems Thinking


Youth is seen as a rebellious age. Many young people often resent the system and its rigid rules. They feel like they have to fight the status quo to change the system.

But do we know what a system is? Typically, by a system we mean just the government and we believe that by voting ‘A’ in and ‘B’ out, the system will change.

It is important to first understand what larger system we are a part of.

Systems thinking helps you gain the ability to :

  • See and understand all the parts of a story
  • Know your community, resources, environment, all the players and their needs
  • Make connections between social, economic, cultural & political systems
  • Ensure diversity, inclusivity and participation in your actions
  • Negotiate with different players

Systemic change is the only change we can keep. In other words, quick fixes to one element of a system are not available. Yesterday’s solution can become today’s problem.

For instance, addressing the issue of open defecation through only an infrastructural approach i.e. building toilets, has made no significant  change in the number of people who use toilets in rural India. The solution has to be systemic and must include policy, infrastructure, legal and psychosocial approaches.

5. Empathy

A good youth worker has to be a great motivator. She/he has to inspire others. This not only requires powerful speaking but most importantly understanding where the other is coming from. We call this empathy.

Empathy is the ability to:

  • create a safe space and invite others to have a friendly conversation which is respectful and nonjudgmental
  • step into the other person’s shoes and try to sense their feelings
  • build loving, caring and joyous relationships
  • listen patiently and attentively with an open mind
  • respond sensitively and honestly

To respond with empathy requires active listening, both are absolutely critical capacities for effective communication. A youth worker must have a genuine interest and stake in the growth of a young person and this authentic engagement is what will bear fruits.

5. Conflict Positive

Conflict is a part of life. You might experience conflict with your family, friends or even co-workers.

Think about Ayesha and Somesh whom we spoke about at the beginning. They’re in conflict with other people at work and in university. What can they and YOU do in such situations?

We all like to avoid conflict and run away from it. But that doesn’t help much. Does it?

Acknowledging, resolving and using conflict as a springboard for change and stronger relationships. This is called being conflict positive

You can learn how to be conflict positive in a Pravah workshop. One of the critical steps this workshop focuses on is carefrontation – how to confront the other person while caring about their needs as well.

When you learn to handle conflict at a small level, you also begin to understand bigger social and political conflicts in a new manner.

5. Value Prioritisation & Decision Making


Values are your judgment of what’s important in life. Your values help you to look at the world with your own perspective and guide you in your daily decisions.

Once you have know your values, you have to prioritise them. Sometimes it’s hard to pick one value over the other and that creates confusion. At the same time, if you don’t prioritise, you might find it very hard to make a decision.

Value prioritisation and decision making are interdependent youth leadership skills. This needs more explaining

If you’re leading a group, figure out your collective values and use them to make your decisions. Also, be sure to make other group members feel included and consult them while making decisions.

If you want to work on your decision making skills, try out the The Unknown I-Land app by CYC.

8. Authentic Interpretation & Storytelling

Creating and interpreting authentic stories is a key youth leadership capacity. It gives you the ability to get to the truth or reality in every situation and work with others to create an authentic and inspiring story that can be easily understood.

In order to get the real story, we need to shift our perspective from believing the hype to the knowing the truth. This can be done by asking powerful questions before opinion. Storytelling is a great capacity.


Sometimes people find serious messages too heavy. You can use humor to talk about a problem and make your story funny & relatable.

At ComMutiny, we inspire young people to use the  style of the Vidushak. Back in the day (in ancient India), a vidushak was a member of the royal court who talked about things that mattered with a sense of humor. Two such examples are Birbal and Tenaliraman. They would not talk in a monologue, rather they would also actively engage the audience by involving them in the telling of the story.

Media theorist Marshall McLuhan called this kind of communication cold media. Cold media uses an interactive and participatory way of communication as opposed to hot media (which is one way communication) and gives all the answers.

The next time you tell a story – make it personal, funny, relatable, interactive and see how well it works!

9. Learnability

Learnability is how we learn in the school of life. It is the ability to:

  • learn from your own and other people’s experiences whether they are small wins, mistakes or major challenges
  • ask for feedback and work on it
  • know your own learning style
  • learn from a range of sources using different learning styles
  • create your personal learning plan, introspect from time to time, if possible, get a buddy to be your mirror to help you track your progress

How does learnability help you? It helps you to quickly adapt to change, increases personal growth and improves your employability throughout your career.

You might have thought of youth leadership capacities differently in the past. It might have meant the ability to talk confidently in front of crowd or delegate tasks within a team. There’s no denying that public speaking and team management are useful skills to have. But below the iceberg lies the capacities that make these skills really work.

Let’s do a quick recap of youth leadership capacities.

If you want to lead change, start by knowing yourself, taking ownership and working on your learnability. Recognise that you’re part of something bigger. Reflect and act.

Be empathetic. Build trusting relationships and look at conflicts as opportunities for change.

Know how your value prioritisation informs your choices and decisions. And don’t forget to tell your story by being authentic and speaking your truth.

It’s quite clear that both Ayesha and Somesh need to nurture their youth leadership capacities by seeking out the right resources. Are you ready to develop your capacities as as youth worker or student? If you’ve got questions on how you can do that, please let us know in the comments below.

Did you find this article helpful? If you’d like to share these youth leadership capacities with other youth workers, feel free to share this article on Facebook and Twitter.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *