Leadership Qualities: Teaching Kids to be Leaders
List of Qualities of a Good Leader
A good leader will have many qualities. I have narrowed it down to five that I feel are encompassing of other qualities, and as such, can be considered the more important qualities of a good leader.
- Work ethic
- Humble & Teachable
As a parent I want my children to be extremely successful and happy, believing that their level of happiness will be their level of success. In short, I want my kids to lead a good and fulfilling life. As the parent of two children I am constantly gaining a further realization at what a monumental task this is. What do I teach them? What experiences can I share to further their journey in life? What skills and attributes do I feel are important to compete and survive in this world?
One of my key philosophies in life is stop and listen. In a hectic world with many distractions, stopping what I am doing and just listen has allowed me to ponder my existence and draw conclusions about life. One such instance of this has to do with the qualities of a leader. This is not to say that I want my children to go out there and be a CEO of some large corporation, but rather I wish my child to learn how to take control of their life and direct it for good. It just so happens that some of these qualities are those that have allowed businessman and women to do well in their line of work.
Whatever your definition of success is, the qualities that leaders should, and many do possess, are ones that parents could use to improve the quality of life for their children.
Teaching Communication Skills
In the early years of life, children quickly develop language skills and progress in their ability to effectively communicate their thoughts and desires.
A leader must have the ability to communicate effectively in a wide variety of situations, whether with employees, consumers, applicants, or the general public. A loss of communication leads to a loss of productivity and confidence.
Here are three tips and ideas to assist in fostering good communication skills with your children:
- The communication game:
Materials: Blocks, crayon/pen and paper, playdough, anything that will allow you to build or create something. All participants must have identical materials.
Participants: 2 to many
Time limit: 7 to 10 minutes
Participants are to face away from each other, and avoid peaking! One person constructs an object using the materials, and as they construct the object of their desire, they communicate with others the process. Each instruction is to be followed by the other participants, using the same materials as the "Master Builder". Once the Master Builder finishes the creation and walking everyone through the steps, all participants can look at how similar their creation is to the participant who instructed. This makes it so children have to rely on listening and giving good instructions to ensure everyone ends up with the same results.
Depending on age level, the adult may want to be the Master Builder for younger ages, and allow older children a chance to be the Master Builder.
- A handshake and hello:
One of the things I taught my son as a toddler was to shake hands and greet people with a, "Hello, how are you?" The simple gesture of physical contact and a genuine interest is a great way for kids to learn to communicate. Here are some things to work on when teaching children to greet in this manner:
- Eye contact: Maintain before the handshake, during the handshake, and when talking
- Good grip: Teach them to shake back and not be afraid to squeeze a little to show the other person they are there!
- Speak clearly: When asking a question or saying hello, make sure the kids are speaking audible and clear
- Listen: When asking the question, "How are you today?", teach your kids to listen and respond appropriately.
Communication is not all verbal. Allowing children the opportunity to see how their non-verbals are portrayed will assist in them controlling and using non-verbals in an appropriate manner. One such way that this can be accomplished is through the classic game of charades.
Materials: Pieces of paper with items (e.g. a boat), people (e.g. Santa), places (e.g. New York), or events/sports (e.g. baseball), written on them. Each strip of paper should include only one thing to act or gesture out.
Participants: 2 or more - One person is the actor while the rest are the guessers, trying to guess what the actor is portraying. You can play teams where a team may only guess when a teammate is acting, and it is timed for points.
One person randomly selects a strip of paper, reads it to themselves, and using no word or sounds, acts out what was written on the paper. The rest of the participants try to guess what the person is acting out. The person who correctly guesses becomes the next actor.
The quest for high self-esteem is one that many adults struggle with, sometimes even leaders. Teaching your children to have confidence in themselves and their abilities will assist in providing a positive outlook for your child.
Here are a few tips and ideas of how to help your kids develop self confidence:
- Never give up
Instill in your child a never give up attitude. When you yourself are working on a difficult task, enlist the help of your child to give you assistance. When things are overly challenging, emulate a positive attitude and determination with a belief in your combined success. If a child is having difficulty finishing a task, and simply wants to give up, coach them through the process, and praise not only the finished product, but the process and hard work that went into it. This also assist children in gaining problem solving skills while developing a sense of confidence and self worth.
- Make a PBJ sandwich
The concept behind this is to allow your child the ability to explore and make mistakes. Depending on the age you can use variants of this.
Model making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and then allow your little one to attempt making one as well. Allow the child to make a mess and to try to follow your example. Allowing a child a chance to make mistakes and learn from them will make them more confident in their abilities, especially when those abilities are challenged.
- Plan the menu, do the shopping, cook a meal!
Along the lines of making a PBJ sandwich, allow your child the chance to plan meals for the week, or preparing the shopping list, or even go as far as preparing the meals.
Giving your child a chance to partake in the tasks of daily living will not only give your child necessary independent skills, but will also give them confidence in being independent. This activity can be done with other things, such as learning finances and making purchasing decisions with the family.
I have often heard that integrity is what you do when no one is looking. Integrity deals with honesty and morality. Unfortunately, much of our news today has to do with the lack of honesty and morals, even within leadership. Perhaps the most difficult to teach, integrity is an attribute that will change lives and the world.
Here are three tips and ideas to instill integrity to your children:
- Choose and be a model of integrity
It seems that whenever I read a story about integrity, the speaker always references a role model, usually a parent who had integrity. Being a role model of all these leadership attributes is important, but the references of role models and integrity seem to be linked more than I had realized.
First, you be a model of integrity. Don't force your child to look up to you, but simply live an honest and moral life. Don't do things that you would be embarrassed or ashamed to do if your child caught you doing it. This is easier said then done, but no one said living an honest and moral life is easy.
Use cartoon characters and real life heroes to illustrate and discuss their attributes of being honest and moral. Take time to check out a book and read more about the role models and point out their attributes.
- Take the time to correct
I was in the store with my three-year-old the other day when I saw him fall down (something he does quite often). I asked him why he fell, and he replied, pointing to a lady at the far end of the aisle, that she pushed him. I took my son to the side of the aisle and asked him if she really pushed him, and he continued to say she did. Now, I will remind you, I saw him fall on his own and the lady was nowhere near him, so he was clearly lying. I continued to ask probing questions, like what he was doing, or why did the lady push him, and then ask again if he fell or if the lady pushed him. He finally answered that he fell, and I used this time to tell him that it hurts people, even the lady who could have gotten in trouble had she really pushed him. If the lady had heard I would have made him apologize.
The message here is that it does not matter when or where you are at, when a situation or opportunity arises, use it to correct your child. Do not worry about how others will judge you, worry more about your child.
- Play sports and games, the value of sportsmanship
Play them, and play them often! Whether you enroll your child in a sport or you take one night during the week to play games as a family, use this time to teach the importance of integrity.
Sportsmanship is a great way to learn to respect others, which is key to integrity. It will also give kids the chance to face the reality of cheating, whether they are tempted by it, participate, or see it happen. Having open communication and teaching your child about this will allow an awesome teaching opportunity.
Teaching a Good Work Ethic
I often site my personal accomplishments to the good work ethic that my parents taught to me.
I think of it as the analogy of give a man a fish, he eats for a day, but teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. Working hard fosters self sufficiency and bolsters self esteem.
Here are three ideas and tips to assist you in teaching your little ones a good work ethic:
- Plant a garden
For those of you who have farmed or worked in fields, you can attest that the physical labor of taking care of plants is tiring, but fulfilling.
Give your child a plot of land, or a few potted plants to tend to. You can also give them a certain plant to take care of in the garden. When I was young my responsibility was to take care of the corn. I would weed it, water, pour mineral oil on the ears to prevent bugs from eating them, and then harvest and shuck. I took great pride in my corn when my family sat down to dinner and ate it.
- Chore chart
Many may already be familiar with a chore chart. Having children help with daily chores is a great way to introduce them to work.
When I was young, my mom had created a paper chore chart with chores listed in three categories. Each category had a pocket, which would house either mine or my siblings name. Our names would rotate from week to week, giving us a new chore list each week.
Nowadays we have technology :)
You can use sites like myjobchart.com, which lets you setup electronic chore charts. They also have the ability to send you a text or email when a child has completed a chore. This interactive alternative is a great way to get kids interested in and motivated to complete their chores, all while instilling in them a desire to work hard!
- Take your child to work
If you are employed, self employed, or are a stay at home parent, let your child follow you around for the day to learn about the ways you work. This modeling will give them a chance to see career options, as well as watch you as you model hard work.
The United States has a foundation, Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation, that sets aside the fourth Thursday in April for children to attend work with parents, or visit other workplaces to learn more about careers and work.
Teaching Humility and how to be Teachable
To me, a large part of humility and being teachable is self control. It is also being able to realize your weaknesses, admit mistakes, and share your success with others, all while having the knowledge that there is always more you can learn and do.
Here are three ideas on how to teach your child to be humble and teachable:
- The statue game
Materials: A lot of room for wiggling
Participants: One leader and one to many wiggly children
There are several variants of the game, and you may come up with one yourself. The way that I play is by not facing the children, allowing them to wiggle, laugh, jump around, and whatever else they can think of. I then quickly turn around and say, "Statue!" All children must freeze, and may not laugh during this time. Anyone who laughs or moves becomes the leader.
This game allows children a chance to develop self-control.
- What I like about your picture
Materials: Crayons/Paints/Markers/Glitter & Glue/Paper/Scissors
Participants: Two to many
Allow children to create a picture using a theme, like drawing their favorite animal. Once children have completed, have them individually share their pictures. Once an individual has shared their picture, invite remaining students to say things they like about the sharers picture. This can be done in a number of variants, with the focus on children noting things they like about other kids achievements.
Allowing children to see that other people are good at things can be a humbling experience, and teach the child that everyone does things differently, and that is good!
- Provide service
Some of the most humbling experiences are also the ones where I feel I have learned the most, which was usually when providing service to someone. Look for ways and opportunities for your children to provide service to someone else. This can include the following, which should be done with no reward or even in secret:
- Shoveling snow or raking leaves
- Making goodies for someone
- Picking up trash at a park or a trail
- Writing letters to service men and women
- Donating unused items like toys and clothes
The qualities of a leader are many, but even learning a few of these attributes and traits will equip and provide your child with the tools necessary to gain independence and do well in the world. As a fellow parent, I wish you well in the difficult yet rewarding task of raising the next generation of leaders.