Mark and I both had leadership positions in college. He was president of an on-campus leadership group and I was president of my sorority. But we’ve tried to teach our children a broader sense of leadership–the power of influence in daily life. There’s a question we asked our kids a lot over the years, especially during middle school and high school:
Are your friends having more of an influence on you, or are you having more of an influence on them?
We wanted them to understand that being a leader was about how they chose to use their influence. And the reason we want our children to be influencers is that we want them to be a leader of good choices.
Here’s how to teach your child to be a leader.
Be willing to stand apart.
Start teaching this as early as you can. When our children were young we were careful about what movies they watched. Well one time Megan was at a sleepover and the girls started a movie Megan knew wasn’t appropriate, so she asked the babysitter if she could go upstairs and play. She was okay with being different. When you encourage this kind of response when your kids are young, it gives them the practice and confidence to walk away later when the stakes are higher.
Our son was caught doing an assignment with a friend when he was supposed to do the work on his own. I made my son go in and apologize to his teacher. He also wrote a note of apology he handed to her. If we can teach our kids to be trustworthy they will go far.
Be a servant.
One of our girls swam for years. She wasn’t the best swimmer, but she worked hard and had a great attitude. When her coach chose captains her senior year of high school, he chose her as one of the three. She was shocked and asked him why he named her a captain. “You have been such a servant in helping the younger swimmers,” he said. “You are a leader whether you’re the best swimmer or not.” Good leaders are good servants.
This one really concerns me because of how social media allows kids to create false personas online. True leaders see who they are and accept their shortfalls and their gifts. A real leader has to admit when they make a mistake and be clear on what God has called them to do, and be okay with that. They must be real with themselves and others.
Be a life-long learner.
Teach your child to add to their knowledge so that they can better understand the world and the needs of others. Encourage them to read about leaders from history and talk with them about how they can apply those lessons to their own life. Leaders keep an open mind about the best way to do things.
Mark and I talk more about How to Teach Your Child to Be a Leader in this podcast.