Today’s youth are our future.

As adults, we often think about ways to develop and grow our kids into the kind of leaders that will help our country to thrive and remain a leader in the world. We work to develop positive leadership qualities in our youth. In 4-H and other youth organizations, we value our volunteers who lead by example; showing kids the importance of giving back to the community, working together, developing an inquiring mind and cultivating a strong work ethic among other leadership qualities.

Many 4-H activities are geared toward developing leadership skills. The 4-H Junior Leaders organization, the Leadership Project and Citizenship Project all focus on teaching kids servant leadership. Our local 4-H clubs instill leadership values taking an active roll in providing to others. We work to instill in our kids the importance of being involved, being a leader.

Why is leadership so important? The answer is simply, really. Without leaders, nothing would change. In fact, I would challenge that we would never move forward, we would fall behind. We need leaders to help incite change and growth within our world. But, how do we change the world? How do we make the world a better place?

The following was found on the tomb of an Anglican bishop (1100 AD) in the crypts of Westminster Abbey: “When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. For their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed my world.” 

Through my own studies of leadership and personal growth, I have come across the saying, “In order to lead others, we must first learn to lead ourselves.”

In reciting the 4-H Pledge, members pledge to serve our “club, community, country and world.” We do this in order to “make the best better.” So, I challenge you that in order to continue to make the best better, we must first look within ourselves. Lead by example. Look for ways to improve your personal leadership skills. Previous years, I have shared a list of books recommended by Dr. Tim Elmore, “Growing Leaders,” for teens and young adults on personal leadership. I would still be happy to share that list with you, but recently, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy a few others:

1. “Chop Wood, Carry Water,” by Joshua Michael Medcalf;

2. “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey;

3. “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie;

4. “Pound the Stone,” by Joshua Michael Medcalf;

5. “The Slight Edge,” by Jeff Olson;

6. “Grit,” by Angela Duckworth;

7. “The Only Way to Win,” by Jim Loehr;

8. “Daring Greatly,” by Brene´ Brown;

9. “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” by Mark Batterson;

10. “Chase the Lion,” by Mark Batterson;

11. “Habitudes — Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes.” 

Additional information about “The Habitudes” series or “Growing Leaders” can be found at

For more information about Cowley County 4-H or Cowley County Extension programs, contact the Cowley County Extension Office at (620) 221-5450, (620) 441-4565.

Kelsey Nordyke is the 4-H youth development agent for K-State Research and Extension, Cowley County. She can be reached at (620) 221-5450 or (620) 441-4565.

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