Competences of a youth leader in an intercultural youth project
COMPETENCES OF A YOUTH LEADER TO MASTER IN A YOUTH INTERCULTURAL PROJECT WITH EU AND PARTNER COUNTRIESThe leader, cornerstone of the groupIn the most limited sense of the word, a youth leader is the ”technician” that helps a group tofunction well during meetings. In this paper, the word youth leader certainly has this meaning. Itcan however also be used to speak of the organizer of a much larger project. We will not limitourselves to the strict technical sense of the word, but neither will we exclude it.THE LEADER IS NECESSARYRegardless of whether the group is small or large, it is necessary to have a leader. If not, you goround in circles, do everything or nothing, get bored … In many groups, the leader is alsoresponsible for the group.It is important that the leader is clearly recognized as such by the group, with the prerogativesand obligations that come along with this role.THE DUTIES OF A YOUTH LEADERThe youth leader is especially in charge of coordonating and structuring all of the steps thatgroup undertakes. This means: Helping the group to define its needs and goals, to put into practice what has been decided and then develop it; Make sure that the group stays true to the goals that have been agreed upon and the organisation that they have committed themselves to in order to accomplish the goals; To make sure the members of the group get along well; To lead the group during meetings (this will be explained in more detail below); To encourage the members to move forward; To watch over the general progress of that which has been decided by the members.NECESSARY COMPETENCESLearning happens by doing, and nobody is perfect from the start. However, a youth leadershould have: Basic knowledge of his role as a leader; Basic knowledge of the fundamental rules concerning group leadership; Basic knowledge of the issues discussed; A good understanding of the general goals of the project in which he or she participates and the ability to explain these to the group; A little bit of leadership experience, if possible (but there is of course a first time for everybody!)
NECESSARY SKILLSThese are to do with personal talents and dispositions that we all have to a smaller or largerextent to begin with, but that can be developed. A good group leader: needs to be convinced of the value of the project undertaken in order to be able to motivate the others; is able to structure the work of the group; is able to handle various interpersonal situations: passivity, aggressiveness, etc. is able to lay aside his or her own personal opinions in order to let the others express theirs; is able to truly listen and understand the others.It is by practising that you are able to acquire and develop these skills. Even if youre not sureyou possess all of them from the start, you have nothing to lose if you feel like trying to lead agroup. You are going the group a huge service if you help it to function well.Does the leader need to know everything?No, the leader does not know anything. His or her role is not to give answers, but to lead. He orshe simply needs to know enough about a specific topic in order to be able to understand what issaid by the others and relate the different statements to eachother.DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN A LEADER AND AN EXPERTIt is really important to distinguish between a leader and an expert (or a resource person – theyboth words mean the same thing). Take the example of a group creating a project concerningfamily budgets:The leader does not need to be an expert on the topic of budgets; he doesnt even need to knowas much as the other members of the group. His or her main role is to help the group to askquestions, to find answers to these questions one way or the other and not answer them him- orherself. However, a good enough knowledge of the issue in question is necessary in order to beable to properly lead the group.What is the role of the expert in relation to the topic? It could be a member of the group, all themembers of the group together, or a guest from the outside.Starting from the moment when a group starts dealing with a situation with which all themembers have practical experience, they are more or less experts since they have theexperience (experts by experience). Too often, we have resorted to asking the opinion ofspecialists, forgetting that our own experiences enable us to think and speak.Establishing a true self-confidence is the first step to take in order to avoid the many abstractand irrelevant definitions of specialists; if the worker will not speak on behalf of the workers orthe farmer on behalf the farmers, who will be able to speak in their place and do their claimsjustice? No one. The best experts on an issue is those who experience it in their daily lives; theuniversity of life is often more efficient than official universities.In practice, and especially in small groups, the leader is often also an export on the issue that is
being discussed. If this is the case, he needs to make sure the group knows so that they do notfeel manipulated. In one way, this might even be better since the group will be able to findanswers to their questions straight away without having to go through a lot of different steps. Onthe other hand, this might be bad since the groups risks becoming passive and completely in thehands of the leader, like little children before their teacher. In large groups, it is usually lessdifficult to distinguish between the leader or organizer of a meeting and the expert orspeaker/advisor/guest.To summarize, we could say that the role of the leader is above all that of an organizer thatorganizes the projects of the group. In order to lead well, it is by no means necessary to be anexpert on the issues that are discussed, but he or she still needs to have a basic grasp of themin order to be able to lead the discussion.