Are You Grooming a Future Leader?
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The business leaders and startup founders that we will see in 15 years from now are most likely sitting in your households, schools and playgrounds. It is children of today who imbibe entrepreneurial and leadership skills early on, who find it easier to take on life’s problems and risks in an optimistic way. Teaching children leadership skills isn’t exactly science, but it is definitely a process of conscious parenting to hone these skills. As a parent, you can inspire leadership skills by fostering the emotional skills your child will need, such as being comfortable with taking risks, establishing good communication, being effective with problem-solving and a positive attitude towards failure.
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”
— James Baldwin, novelist and social critic
Parents are the biggest models for their children to understand the world better, and the same extent as they look for leadership models in their own lives. For instance, a simple way to show them what being a balanced professional is the way you keep a line between your work and personal life or how you decide to communicate with your work colleagues (respect/autonomy/condescension, etc.). Keeping this in mind, parents can follow a few tips to instil skills of leadership, which not only help children with their careers but also in their daily decision making and navigation to become well-rounded individuals.
Be the leader you want them to be
The first and foremost way to inspire children is to reflect on your own mannerisms and qualities as an individual and as a leader. Children imitate everything – from the way you speak to a restaurant staff member, a valet or your own colleagues. Doing activities with your children will help them understand what makes you stand apart in a group of other adults. Helping in community work, volunteering or going for a game of paintball will help them understand you better, and in turn, help them gain clarity of how they want to grow as individuals. If you have a chance to take them to your workplace or any other formal gathering once in a while, they will also understand that leadership stands on the mutual respect and trust people have for each other.
Communication is the cornerstone of leadership
Communication builds trust. Trust builds relationships and relationships are what great leaders have with their counterparts and followers. Teach your children the art of communication by instilling activities like reading – be it sci-fi, fairy tales, fiction or comics. Reading is known to impact children in their imagination as well as increasing their articulation of ideas. Similarly, exercises like keeping a vision board where they can put down their ideas and goals in the form of written essays and photographs can help them form coherent thoughts better.
Other small measures can be – when you go to a restaurant, you can change a simple dinner into a confidence-building task by asking the children to place their order to the staff directly. Speaking to adults who they are not familiar with, will help them gain confidence in themselves and be able to communicate what they need.
Negotiation and Decision Making
Children should learn the art of making decisions early in life and the earlier, the better. Have you ever spent hours trying to choose a show on Netflix and by the time you’re down to picking the right flick, either you’re tired or your food is stale cold? Now, imagine what would happen to children in this scenario.
Children can be overwhelmed by the availability of too many choices and instead of letting them drown in it – provide them with 2-3 options, whether it is a movie or an item from the takeout menu. It helps them greatly if children are taught to weigh the pros and cons of each option they make so that they make a well-informed choice as opposed to an emotional one. This platter of choice and decision making can be made wider and bigger as they grow and become more confident in their decision-making skills.
Every good leader knows the art of negotiation and compromise. Instead of making a firm “yes” or “no” and deciding on their behalf, you can lay out a plan wherein they can negotiate in support of what they really want and if need be, be available to give away something else in their priority range. For example: If your child wants a particular toy instead of a plain yes or no, you can encourage them to negotiate either in chores or more time studying. Let them decide and negotiate the extra study hours or extra chores.
Encourage team activities
Teamwork helps children learn to get along with others, to work and cooperate across differences. Learning to work effectively in a team can be one of the greatest lessons in honing leadership among children. Be it exercises like forming a painting group and picking a leader who ensures all the playmates clean up after the sessions or going on family trips where they are equally involved in the planning process; children will learn the basics of business projects, group effort and holding brainstorming sessions from very early on.
Teach ways to challenge the status quo
Kids are often taught to blindly follow rules. A good way to teach your children the way to bring solutions using rationality is to question and find ways to make things better – for instance, you can ask them what they think will make their bus trip from home to school better, or how can they solve the problem of finding dirty washrooms in their pool club. By encouraging to articulate a thought, rationalize and find solutions for it peacefully, children will develop into people who will try to understand the rationale behind existing rules and structures instead of being blind followers.
Reward optimistic thinking
The linkage between optimistic thinking and honing leadership skills are strong. Reward optimism in children, especially when that optimism is connected to them reaching a goal. For instance, teach your children money management from an early age and give them the space to make mistakes so that they don’t associate mistakes and failure as something extremely unpleasant. Teach them to list out a priority list where they write down items they’d like to buy and causes they would like to donate to. Using the set amount of money every month, they can decide to allocate small amounts into different items or causes that they’d like to achieve first. Lessons like these not only help in teaching the value of money but also teach them the ability of goal setting and priorities.