Humanity has seen great leaders rise above the crowd. Martin Luther King Jr., Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc - all people that have stepped out of the masses and turned the people from confusion to organization, from the rabble into the mob. Although many will contend that these people were simply born good leaders, there are many others (mostly parents) that will assure you these great leaders were made, forged by the sweat and dedication of the ones that raised them. What is leadership anyway? There are lots of definitions out there, but I like John Maxwell's definition best - leadership is influence. Influencing others to come along for the ride, without needing a title or position to do so. Influencing others through words, actions, and most importantly, through example so that others enthusiastically give their best. As such, nurturing kids to grow as leaders isn't primarily about getting a good job, making them more marketable, teaching them to control others, or pushing them to be a future CEO or quarterback. It's about helping her reach her full potential, and also enabling her to draw out the potential in others. Great leaders possess an exceptional skill set, but even more importantly, great leaders have an unparelleled mindset and "heartset" - deeper qualities that go beyond skill or perspective. Leadership Skill Set
- Leaders communicate - Great leaders obviously have to be great communicators, and the best way to bring that out in your child is to immerse them in the world of language. Encourage her to read as much as possible, from books to magazines to comic books - anything that involves her with the written language. When she's old enough, encourage her to write as well. Diary entries, essays, fictional stories. Take the opportunity to teach her how words matter when she faces conflict with friends or when misunderstandings occur. She'll start to get an understanding of the power and the responsibility of the words she chooses as well as how she delivers them.
- Leaders organize - Any good leader is an effective organizer. Not only can she organize a group of people into a cohesive unit, but she's effective in organizing her own life. As she get older, start to delegate more schedule decisions to her - she'll soon learn that organization skills is about prioritizing. Show her how to use checklists and share a little about how you keep all your savvinness organized, too.
- Leaders solve problems - Help foster problem solving skills in your child by role-playing with them. Present her with difficult situations that might arise at school, and have her work through them with you. Teach her to look at both sides of the issue, to view problems through multiple lenses before making a decision. Teach her to think about all decisions in terms of pros and cons.
- Leaders dream big - Great leaders can see past the current day situation and envision what could be. They have an ability to imagine what the future could look like and are optimistic that it is achievable. Now, vision for a toddler probably just entails a chocolate covered donut with rainbow sprinkles, but as your tot grows up, you can begin to nurture this vision muscle. Get her involved in activities that require creativity and imagination - drawing a more intricate scene, building a LEGOS castle, and building a go-cart with her friends. Expose her to new experiences that will shape her perspective of what is possible and how the world works. For example, take her to a Habitat for Humanity service trip and visit the local farm to learn how the whole food chain works. Challenge her to ask, "Wouldn't it be cool if..."
- Leaders set goals - Teach your child to set realistic goals when she's still young. Goals could include having her room clean by a certain time, or reading a book within the space of a week. Set goals for her at first and help her meet them, and as she gets more confident allow her to set her own goals. You don't want go overboard and make her too goal-oriented, but setting good goals will help her to learn planning, motivation, and (if she's smart) delegation skills.
- Leaders have strong character - Leaders have integrity and courage. They aren't easily shaken up by discouragement and they keep their promises. They have that inner strength to make tough decisions and don't yield to the pressures of the day. Developing kids of strong character is so important that it's the entire focus of the Character articles within Savvy Daddy's SavvyPack section. In particular, read the articles about how we can raise kids of integrity, courage (coming soon), generosity, and compassion.
- Leaders are coaches - All leaders are coaches. We can teach our kids to have a heart of a coach by letting them experience what it's like to be coached (through a sports team, for example) or to let them coach younger kids. They'll experience the thrill of their advice being taken seriously. In addition, we can help him learn to how to understand motivations and be "emotionally intelligent", so that he can figure out how to draw out and motivate others.