Well, it's back to school for my kids. Back to the regimented days of waking up early, full days of school, and long nights of homework.
As a kid, I hated the end of summer. The end of staying up late and sleeping in even later. In fact, I recall crying once or twice as September approached. So you can imagine my surprise when my kids were indifferent about getting back to the classroom. In fact, they were almost excited to get back to campus.
Now, don't get me wrong. My kids are no book worms. They didn't spend their summer getting ready for fall classes. While they rank towards to top of their class, they are not best-in-class when it comes to grades.
What my kids certainly are is good leaders on their way to becoming great leaders. And I would argue that strong leadership skills are just as important as straight A's - and in some cases, more important.
Have you ever wondered why some kids grow up to become great leaders while others grow into adulthood lacking the ability to organize a game of kickball?
Experts argue that certain kids are natural-born leaders. Some kids are born with an innate ability to take charge and execute on a vision they conceive in their minds. But those same experts also agree that leadership skills can be learned and need not be reserved for the lucky few born with the leadership gene. It is possible to develop leadership skills within all kids – and the earlier the lessons begin, the earlier they develop their leadership style.
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 young 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, developing leaders acquire the skill of negotiation and learn how to work with others. As these emerging leaders increase their leadership activity they are placed into situations that require collaboration and compromise - skills that are greatly valued.
“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 traits of characters in their favorite television shows, or the examples described in books they read or had read to them. Highlight leadership traits such as honesty, perseverance, kindness, creativity, intelligence, etc.
“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.
“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.
“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 is most 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.