When Kids Lead

3+ Tips for Cultivating Leadership Skills in All Children

Todd Nesloney
Classroom Champions
4 min readApr 29, 2021


As we grow out of our adolescent years we are bombarded with information on how to become a better leader. Whether it’s seminars, books, webinars, or the tried and true copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People.

But as I’ve grown, I’ve often wondered where the leadership training is for our students of all ages? Sure there are groups, programs, and organizations like Student Council, FCCLA, LeaderInMe, and so many others, but often times they focus heavily on the natural leaders, the loudest voices, the most mature and often older students.

I believe that every child is capable of growing into a leader. Regardless of their race, background, or even if they’re an introvert. You see leadership isn’t always the loudest person. Leadership isn’t always the first volunteer. Leadership looks different for every one of us (and our students).

In my book When Kids Lead, my co-author Adam Dovico and I share all kinds of tips, strategies, and activities to grow leadership skills in all of our students.

Three of my favorites are …

Me with two social media interns headed out to take photos!
  1. Social Media Interns — We have to tell the story of our students and our schools. If we don’t tell it someone else will, and it won’t always be in the best light. I’ve learned that social media is a fantastic platform to do that. But in my list of 5,000 things to do a day often I would forget to post. Hence, social media interns. We train small groups of students how to take photos, post to social media, utilize hashtags, and more to show off the great things in our school. They run all the social media accounts for our school! And every three weeks it rotates to new interns, who are conveniently trained by the interns before them! Not only does it allow our story to be told daily, from the perspective of a student, but it also teaches them how to use social media for good!

2. Classroom Greeters — We train all of our students in S.P.E.C.I.A.L. (an acronym created by Adam; see image). Each class then selects a Classroom Greeter who has the enviable job of greeting any adult who may enter the classroom. Instruction never stops, yet every guest gets a personal greeting, information on what’s happening currently in class, and invite to join in on the fun! It helps our students learn how to hold a conversation and welcome people into any environment. This is a fantastic addition to classrooms of all ages.

3. Student-Led Conferences — both Adam and I believe heavily in giving kids ownership of their learning and growth. If that is truly going to happen, at some point the adults in the room have to relinquish a little control. Every year we would train our students how to track their data and growth, how to convey that to the adults in their own lives, and how to set goals moving forward. It was powerful to watch students lead conferences with their guardians, and explain areas of focus and their own personal plans of growth moving forward.

I could easily list out 10 more ideas. These and many more are covered in depth in When Kids Lead. And yes, we even cover ideas on how to encourage both introvert and extrovert leaders, because we need all of them.

The entire point is for adults to understand that often the biggest thing standing in the way of kids taking charge ... is us. We have to allow them a space to lead, fail, learn, and try again.

Today, let the kids take charge. Let them lead in their own unique ways. Because you’ll find time and time again how powerful it is when kids lead.

May is Leadership month at Classroom Champions! Check out the SEL unit on LEADERSHIP for students in grades K-8, which highlights U.S. silver and gold medalist Meghan Duggan’s authentic stories in being a leader on and off the ice.

Todd Nesloney is Director of Culture & Strategic Leadership at TEPSA, an innovative educator, and a great friend of Classroom Champions. Check out the webinar he joined us for, Building an Olympic-Sized Growth Mindset.



Todd Nesloney
Classroom Champions

Principal at @Webb_Elem, White House Champion of Change, 2x @BammyAwards Recipient, NSBA 20 to Watch & Co-Founder of @KidsDeserveIt #KidsDeserveIt