Updated: May 19, 2020
How to ensure that your students are growing the necessary skills to become great leaders.
Leadership starts with knowing who we are and how to lead ourselves. This self-awareness is an essential first step to leading others.
The foundation for leadership is our character and the morals and values that we base our decisions on. That is where the hard work of leadership starts. Thankfully, character is something we're able to control and improve.
Parents are a primary source of leadership training, but most of us need to be more intentional about our approach. When parents hear the word ‘leadership’ it evokes a range of images and emotions, everything from ‘I don’t want my child to be that controlling person who micromanages everyone and everything’ to ‘I want my child to be a leader, not a follower.’ The key is to be a Servant Leader.
I am often asked if I think leadership is an inherent trait, whether some people are just ‘born to lead’. I do believe there are personality traits that allow some to become leaders more instinctively. However, effective leadership is intentional, and it builds our own characters and attitudes. Our leadership is then sharpened by experience and a desire to serve others.
I believe that exceptional, effective leadership is Servant Leadership.Servant leaders use their gifts and passions to add value to others. They are humble, but have the courage to step up when a need arises, and the courage to pursue their vision. Their focus is on their team, not on their role. As John Maxwell says, “A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.”
Leadership Principles should be taught early and often. Unfortunately, our school system was designed in the industrial era to churn out good workers, not leaders. So much about ‘formal school’ flies in the face of intentional leadership training, and parents are left with little time to counter that ‘training’.
Now is a perfect time to be more intentional about developing leaders in your home. Effectively taking these 3 steps can transform your children’s education, and your household:
1. Let them help you
We’ve all heard it before, ‘kids mimic what you do, not what you say’. Well, if you go one step further and let them help you in what you are doing, you have taught them a skill they can do for themselves. You've taught them how to learn, how to figure something out. You are mentoring them and demonstrating servant leadership.
When you let your students help, you are not only fostering their desire to serve others, but you are also providing the invaluable experience to succeed or fail alongside you. This creates confidence in their own abilities that will not be easily shaken when they are faced with a new challenge. This confidence will also allow them to come alongside someone else to help them through a challenge. This is servant leadership.
2. Learn, do, teach - look for opportunities to make them the expert
Our capacity to learn is limitless. It is so exciting to watch someone master a new skill, realize a truth that has eluded them, or light up with joy at discovering a new universe to explore. The Japanese have a saying that if we aren’t learning, we are dying. That has so much truth to it.
In the realm of leadership, however, just learning isn’t enough. Knowledge without action is just information, knowledge with action brings change, but knowledge that you can use to empower others is life changing. One of the most impacting things I've done with my kids every chance I've gotten is to make them ‘the expert.’ I wanted them to enjoy the process of learning, and build confidence in their ability to work through challenges. They would learn about something that fascinated them, then put that information or knowledge into practice by way of a presentation, a cool lego construction, or a song, then teach the rest of us about their discovery.
This wasn’t a ‘project assignment’, it was more organic than that. For example, my daughter was engrossed in one of our favorite ‘curricula’, Horrible Histories, and was fascinated with the French Revolution. She was 8. All of a sudden, she ran upstairs and said not to bother her. Ok. A couple of hours later she called us upstairs and proceeded to show us her Lego dungeon, complete with a guillotine, rack, and other appropriate dungeon devices. For 30 minutes she talked about what happened to Marie Antoinette and why it happened. She answered all her brothers’ and my questions, and looked up ones she could not answer. She was a leader and ‘an expert.’
This process of ‘learn, do, teach’ solidifies information, but it also allows your child an opportunity to lead. You are empowering them to take ownership of their own education, you are empowering them to love learning, not for a grade, but because they can enrich other’s lives. This process is still happening today with my young adult children, and I still love to learn from them!
3. Laugh - at yourself and with your kids
This is probably the simplest to explain, and the hardest to do. Yet, humor, specifically laughing at yourself and with others, is vital to leadership. All great leaders have an ability to recognize mistakes and learn from them.
This was a tough one for me. Growing up there was a saying in our house that was repeated often, ‘no big deal.’ The trick is to actually believe it! I have always taken myself too seriously, and my kids have taught me to cut myself a break and laugh at the unimportant ‘goof ups’ we all make.
My kids watched how hard I was on myself, even when I wasn’t hard on them. They then felt that they had to be hard on themselves, too. Many kids, like mine, have a perfectionist bent already, but that makes it even more important that they see, it’s no big deal. The more you can show your children that making mistakes and laughing at ourselves is ok, the more prepared they will be to lead.
If you're looking for a way to get your student connected with other servant leaders and get hands-on training, check out our student leadership team!