Is leadership a learn-able skill? Or is it some innate character trait that some are born with? Are children capable of adopting some of the personality and talents associated with a good leader?
Evidence from a number of researchers and organizations appears to indicate that parents and mentors of children have a unique opportunity to encourage the development of good leadership principles. Dr. Scott D. Krenz believes that:
“Building children into leaders is a task all parents should undertake. Even if your child does not want to be a leader they will still possess the qualities that make them a genuinely better person.”
Positive character traits should be encouraged and developed at an early age. A strong work ethic, honesty, self-responsibility, self-discipline, kindness, tolerance, and respect for self and others are the foundation for good people and leaders. These aspects of character are concepts that are easy to admire and even understand but can often be neglected if parents or mentors don’t take a deliberate and proactive approach to raising children.
Dr. Krenz makes a clear distinction between leadership and bossiness. He says that parents should:
“Children need to learn that being a leader does not always mean “being the boss” and “giving orders to everyone”. Teach your children that a true leader does not do things to help themselves or expand their ego, but instead they lead in order to help others.”
Parents can help foster resilience, confidence and creativity in kids and help them understand that mistakes are normal and experiences that we learn from.
Penn State has distilled some of the most coherent practical advice for parents, teachers and mentors to help children develop strong and lasting leadership skills.
- Children learn from seeing what others do. It is important to model leadership behavior to children. Tell the child what you are doing and why you are doing it. They learn that you do things with purpose, which have outcomes.
- Teach children how to see things from another’s point of view. Good communication is a key component to being an effective leader. Teach children how to listen carefully and how to respond to others in a calm and respectful way.
- Help children build their leadership self-confidence by giving them opportunities to do a good job and offer praise when appropriate. You might say, “I am so proud of you that you volunteered to be the leader of the group. It is a big job to make sure everyone is doing their part.”
- Find ways to create problem solving situations. Allow children to start making small decisions such as picking which activity they want to participate in. Give children more opportunities to make decisions as they learn the concepts of responsibility and consequences of making a decision.
There are a number of programs and organizations that are committed to helping build positive leadership skills in children such as Toast Master’s Youth Leadership Program, Global kids, 4-H clubs, Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, and Rotary to just name a few.
Ultimately, kids are the future., the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation wrote:
“Children look to us, the adults for guidance and inspiration, they look to us and they see their future. Therefore it us up to us to give them images of hope, leadership, strength and justice.”
We can rest assured that our future is in the hands of someone like Owen Kosevich.
Project by: Krista Kull, Emily Nichols, Sholpan Zhaksybaeva and Dave Van En