What makes a great leader? According to John Maxwell, it is someone “who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” As an afterschool program leader, you are tasked with executing the program mission and strategy in order to provide a high-quality and enriching setting for participating students. It’s a responsibility that can’t be taken lightly, and those who rise to the occasion often possess a few key qualities.

1. Integrity

As quoted by writer C.S. Lewis, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” A great program leader can be expected to stick to their values and core beliefs, even when faced with challenges or subjected to immense pressure. It demonstrates a commitment to honesty and truthfulness, regardless of the circumstances, which will inspire others to do the same.

2. Inspiration

Speaking of inspiring, a great program leader is an abundant source of inspiration for others. The key is to set a good example and model excellence. When issues arise, for example, your staff will look to you for guidance. Remain positive, stay calm and keep the motivation level up. John Quincy Adams said it best: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

3. Good Communicator

Being a good communicator works two-fold. First, as a leader, you must be able to effectively communicate your program mission and vision to the staff. Aligning them with the mission keeps them focused, accountable and committed to producing results. Second, you also need the skills, tools and processes to communicate with your team on a regular basis about expectations, updates and any other pertinent information. A lack of communication can lead to disorganization and disorder in your program.

4. Creativity

When running a high-quality afterschool program, creative thinking is a key ingredient to success. Whether it’s planning and allocating a limited budget or finding exciting ways to teach a seemingly boring topic, creativity is a useful quality for program leaders. Taking an outside-the-box approach can help you reach your program goals, increase awareness and attract students and their families to your program.

5. Empathy

Empathy is the skill of understanding and recognizing others' feelings and perspectives. In order to lead others effectively, you must be able to see things from their perspective and relate to their thoughts, emotions or experiences. However, while it’s important to be empathetic as the program leader, you have to remain assertive and avoid being a pushover, which may impact your ability to lead.

6. Empowerment

Great program leaders empower their staff in ways that help them grow and thrive. One way to do this is by delegating and transferring responsibility for specific tasks, like checking attendance, managing tuition or preparing materials for the day. Other ways to empower your program staff is by praising their effort, providing encouragement and support and forgiving mistakes.

7. Confidence

To be an effective program leader, you must be sure about your own decisions, skills and abilities. In addition, great leaders reflect confidence in their actions and show assertiveness in order to gain the respect of their team. Otherwise, your staff may be hesitant to follow your guidance or trust you as a leader.

8. Decisiveness

The decisions you make have a large impact on your program, staff and participating students. And as program leader, you must be able to make the right decisions at the right time, and do so quickly and effectively. While many decisions may be made on your own, it’s also beneficial to bring in key stakeholders to weigh in. And when great leaders make a decision, they believe in and stand by it.

9. Passion

Your passion is most likely rooted in providing a safe place for students to have fun, develop and learn after school. Great leaders demonstrate their passion by getting their hands dirty and fully committing to realizing your mission. Your passion can motivate your staff and infuse new energy into them, helping you to reach your program goals.

10. Optimistic

Leaders who are optimists have hope and a belief in a better future. They don’t allow present issues or challenges to discourage them or distract them from their goal. In other words, they focus on opportunities rather than obstacles. Even more, this optimism can be passed on to your program staff, helping to foster a positive mood, raise morale and motivate others to succeed.

Would you add any qualities to the list? What do you think makes a great afterschool program leader? Share with us below!