Every school has its leaders. And, I’m not necessarily talking about the class president or the kids on the student council. Every school has its informal leaders. These are the students whom other students admire and want to follow. They have most of the real power in the school at least among the students.
These teens might be in leadership capacities, like captain of the football team, or they might only be leaders in the sense that others hang on their every word and follow their lead. Sometimes this leadership can be positive (like on the football field), neutral (like wearing certain clothes), or negative (picking on others, starting trouble).
If you’re a parent, teacher or teen who is trying to start anti-bullying efforts in a school, then you have to realize that you need to get the school’s informal leaders on board with your efforts. That’s right. Teachers, principals, counselors, and other students can do all they want. But, if the school’s de facto leaders aren’t on board, these initiatives will fail.
Perhaps these student leaders are doing some of the bullying. Or perhaps they don’t care. Maybe they don’t like bullying but don’t have the courage or tools to stand up for that conviction. However, it’s far more important to win over these students than just about any other people in the school building. They will get other students on board and use their power to change the school’s actual culture.
We advise schools to find those students that others want to follow and instead of marginalizing them or trying to displace them, try to use them. Educate them about their leadership, encourage it in a positive direction, and enlist them in the fight against bullying.
This is especially important because the natural leaders in schools could be the natural leaders outside of school too. It’s a great policy to start empowering them now. It’ll help combat bullying in the present and help make them better leaders down the line.