Why is it that some kids grow up to become great leaders, while others grow into adulthood lacking the ability to organize a game of kickball?
Some argue that certain kids are natural born leaders. And experts agree that some kids are born with an innate ability to take charge. But those same experts also agree that it is possible to develop leadership skills within all kids – and the earlier the lessons begin, the earlier they develop their leadership style.
I have researched, tested, and refined certain practices in an effort to develop leadership abilities in my two young daughters. I am happy to say that both girls are developing into strong leaders. And along the way, they have earned the respect of peers and adults.
Helping children become leaders has many advantages. Kids that develop into leaders generally have a strong sense of self-esteem. Self-esteem provides kids with confidence and the drive to excel.
Leaders also develop strong communication skills. As these youth leaders accept greater and greater responsibility, they are required to interact with others. These interactions develop within them stronger-than-average communication abilities that assist them in other aspects of their lives.
Finally, youth leaders acquire the skill of negotiation and learn how to work with others. As youth increase their leadership activity they are placed into situations that require collaboration and compromise - skills that are greatly valued.
1. Make Leadership Part of Your Child’s Vocabulary: “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” —Peter Drucker
If you’re going to help your child develop as a leader you need to describe what a leader is and does. The best way to do that is to make leadership a term that is used frequently to describe favorable traits. Conversations about leadership can originate when talking about the things other students did at school, the things characters in their favorite television shows did in an episode, or the examples described in books they read or had read to them. Highlight leadership traits such as honesty, perseverance, kindness, creativity, intelligence, etc.
2. Give Your Child Opportunities to Learn and Exercise Leadership:“All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.” - Albert Einstein
Leadership opportunities begin the moment at which your child begins to interact with other children. Beginning with preschool, through Boys Scouts/Girl Scouts, to AYSO and Little League, and into cheerleading and science club - every day provides a venue for your child to put to use your leadership lessons. Be sure to observe as much as possible and provide feedback one-on-one. Remember to praise your child for exercising leadership.
3. Set a Leadership Example: “Example is leadership.” - Albert Schweitzer
Leadership is best taught by example. Be sure to share your leadership experiences with your child. When possible, bring your child along to view you in action! If you volunteer at the local library, belong to the local Rotary Club, or serve as an elected official, share your leadership experiences with your child to give your child something that links your conversations to the real world.
4. Go Easy on Your Child: “Patience is necessary, and one cannot reap immediately where one has sown.” - Soren Kierkegaard
As your child gets older, peer pressure increases. While all parents wish that children would avoid any form of peer pressure, the reality is that they live in a very difficult world. As a parent developing a leader, what’s important is to monitor your child, communicate openly, and describe their actions that may be inconsistent with the acts of a leader. Refer to your conversations regarding the traits of leaders. These conversations may become more difficult as your child grows and becomes more independent. Have faith and trust that your child will respond appropriately when outside of your influence.