Developing kids into leaders will support their careers no matter which path they choose. It gives them the tools they need to engage with others. Helping kids understand the critical distinction between a leader and a boss will ensure that they value the skills of leadership over the power of command.
1. Charge them with responsibility.
Often, leaders have to balance many competing responsibilities. Make sure the workplace isn’t the first place your child encounters this. Giving them a responsibility within your home can help prepare them to understand the importance of getting a job done, doing it well, and being part of a community.
2. Show them examples.
There are many, easily accessible examples of poor or thoughtless leadership. Make sure to expose your children to leaders whose choices you value. The “How Leaders Lead” podcast engages multiple leaders from across multiple professions. Help children also see leaders in places other than TV or social media. Don’t forget to take it further than “I think X person is a good leader.” Share why, or what you admire about their leadership style.
3. Lean into talents.
Not all leaders are built the same. Some excel at motivating others to get a job done, some focus on how to get the job done most efficiently, some are good at seeing the bigger picture, and some are better at focusing on the small details. Adults can help each child find, improve, and apply the talent-focused leadership trait they feel most comfortable with.
4. Build planning skills.
Leaders achieve their goals through planning, but planning is a skill that can take time to develop. Help your child to see how planning can impact outcomes by engaging them in planning a vacation or weekend day. Planning can also help build other skills, including research and budgeting.
5. Teach respect.
The Golden Rule is echoed across time and across civilizations. Help your child learn how to respect others, starting at home, by starting from empathy. Consider having discussions about the practical applications of respect, instead of the grand concept, like “How can we show respect when…” or “Treating others with respect means that I will…”.
6. Normalize learning from mistakes.
Leadership isn’t about being right all the time. Help your kids understand that admitting a weakness or mistake helps them become stronger. You can’t change courses or fix a problem without identifying the problem in the first place. Share stories of individuals who have conquered failure to become industry leaders or inventions gone wrong that were refocused into well-known successes, like the Slinky or chocolate chip cookies.
7. Value learning.
Thinking you know everything, ever, can be a recipe for failure. Good leaders spend a lot of time learning and adapting to changing circumstances. Engage in a thought exercise to explore how businesses have changed (or failed to change) in response to a changing world. For example, what would have happened if the United States Postal Service had continued to deliver mail by horse long after cars were invented?
8. Build leadership experiences.
Support your child’s engagement in leadership experiences throughout their career. Encourage them to consider how they can become leaders during the school day or during their extracurriculars. Advocate for an intentional leadership program in your schools, and help them pursue specific leadership opportunities such as running for class president. The more kids engage in leadership, the more comfortable they will become!