Leadership development is a core element of the YouthBuild model. YouthBuild program staff are charged with deepening their understanding and adoption of positive leadership development practices that support participants and alumni to have positive outcomes.  Developing leadership skills better prepares youth participants to successfully transition into and through post-secondary education and career training. 

Young people engaged in leadership development in the YouthBuild program are also more likely to engage in ongoing positive self-development and proactive interactions with their families and communities. One study showed that a significant number of YouthBuild graduates surveyed continued to contribute to their local program as alumni and  were involved in leadership roles including public office holders, church leaders, and youth workers (Pathways to Leadership: A Study of YouthBuild Graduates: CIRCLE, 2012).

Leadership is demonstrated when young people take responsibility for ensuring a positive impact for themselves, their family, their program, their community, and even the planet. As you work towards your DOL YouthBuild performance outcomes, you will be impacting participant success that cuts across multiple aspects of participants’ lives: post-secondary education, long-term career success, emotional and physical health, and financial literacy (a Financial Capability Factsheet is listed in the resources below), to name a few. Leadership skills help our youth participants to help themselves.

Leadership skills help participants develop persistence and resilience -- key tools that are ultimately what youth participants will fall back on when faced with life’s challenges. Leadership gives them the ability to feel empowered to show up every day and do their best.  

According to Leadership Development, Workplace and Post-Secondary Readiness Competencies (YouthBuild USA, 2016), many of the same competencies necessary for students to become leaders in their families, programs, and communities are also the foundational skills sought by employers and needed to succeed in higher education.

When planning leadership development activities and measuring leadership development among program participants, YouthBuild programs should be mindful of the intersections between leadership development, higher education, and workplace competencies.  Below are a few suggested leadership development approaches and competencies that YouthBuild programs can use as a launch pad for developing their leaders from within – these approaches are broken into three categories:  Personal Leadership Skills and Knowledge, Small Group Leadership Skills and Knowledge, and Community Leadership Skills and Knowledge.

Each competency has an example benchmark a program could use to assess a participant working towards attainment of the competency. Benchmarks should be customized to each program, so these are simply illustrative. Below are suggested standards for completion of the competencies, e.g. “to graduate, a student must satisfactorily attain 80 percent of these leadership competencies.” Competency attainment should result in a certificate, which can be added to a participant’s resume or portfolio.


Personal Leadership Competencies

  1. Schedule - Keeps and uses a weekly schedule and calendar.
  2. Email - Has and uses an email account, Facebook page, or other social media networking platform.

  3. Goal setting - Sets and makes progress towards personal development goals. Understands the value of long-term goals and deferred gratification. Can use self-evaluation and feedback from others to evaluate progress.
  4. Emotional control - Handles own anger, frustration, disappointments, and reactions to personal or societal disrespect and mistreatment in a constructive way.
  5. Financial literacy - Has basic financial literacy skills: pays bills, saves money, has a bank account, makes and uses a personal budget.

  6. Note taking - Takes useful notes in class, in meetings, and on the work site.
  7. Researching - Can find information through researching.
  8. Personal values - Can articulate how own personal values and beliefs affect decision making.
  9. Support network - Seeks and takes advantage of a positive support network and has someone to turn to during times of need.
  10. Community resources - Can identify and secure community resources and supports to help meet their needs.

    Small Group Leadership Competencies

  11. Defines leadership - Can define the functions, skills, attitudes, and qualities of good leaders.
  12. Listening - Listens well to others in class, in meetings, and on the work site.
  13. Public speaking - Can prepare for and present in front of a group.
  14. Group process - Can explain and participate in a variety of group process meth­ods such as brainstorming, small group sharing, equal time go-arounds, and appreciations.

  15. Small group meetings - Can lead an effective small group discussion, follow an agenda, or reach a decision.


Community Leadership Competencies

  1. Knowledge of government - Can explain the basics of how local, state, and national govern­ments work.
  2. Voting - If eligible, is registered to vote and knows how to vote.
  3. Leverages media to raise public concern - Can write a letter to the editor or local official, post a blog, or launch a Facebook campaign.
  4. Researches issues - Can research and advocate for issues important to them.
  5. Service - Can identify opportunities to serve the community.
  6. Cultural competence - Demonstrates respect for cultural differences among peers and in the community. Understands and effectively communicates about terms of oppression (such as racism, sexism, adultism).
  7. Community mapping - Can map assets and key influential organizations, people, and forces in the community.
  8. Organizing events - Can plan, organize, and implement a program activity or event.

If the program can incorporate and support participant mastery of these competencies, the youth can develop into the true leaders that we see within them.  Below is a sampling of what leadership means to alumni leaders across the YouthBuild network:

Leadership is. . .

  • putting your two cents into something. Stepping up to the challenge, [and using your] talent for a better world.
  • taking responsibility for your own actions first. Taking on problems that affect not only you, but your family and community.
  • something that constantly changes…the more you learn and the more things you experience.
  • making sure that your voice is heard and bringing out leadership ability in other people.
  • being a role model to other people.

Learn more about the leadership development approach and strategies our archived webinar, Leadership Development Approach and Strategies Implemented Across the YouthBuild Network.

Related Resources

Leadership Development, Workplace and Post-Secondary Readiness Competencies

Graduate Engagement at YouthBuild

YouthBuild Policy Committee Handbook

Financial Capability Factsheet

Money Smart for Young Adults