Raising Leaders

By: Dr. Tanvi Maharaja

“… and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

Leadership comes naturally to some, while others need a little honing of skills, and some have talents that are best nurtured through following in the lead of a strong hand and a discerning eye. The world as we see it today definitely needs people with unique qualities that make the best of the potential around them and channel these in the right direction to benefit the community as a whole. Do our kids have the qualities to be an able leader or a pragmatic follower? Is it possible to raise our kids so they grow up ready to take on leadership roles? Can you raise your kids to lead?

As moms, and parents, and caregivers, we can certainly provide our kids with the right environment and opportunities that help them bloom into individuals that people look up to. And while these opportunities are everywhere, there are small steps we can take right in our own homes that can unearth and cultivate these qualities.

My Feet, Your Shoes

Teaching kids to put themselves in other people’s situations, think about what someone else is going through, creates an ability to empathize with those around us. Since leadership is about leading and dealing with people, this is perhaps one of the most important soft skills. If you know what your team-mates are going through, where they are coming from, you will be able to provide them with roles that are most suitable for them, roles that will excite them the most, and roles that will help them do the best for their team. Treating everyone with the respect and dignity we expect of ourselves, and establishing that oft-elusive rapport comes from a basic empathy towards others. To be a leader, put yourselves in someone else’s shoes and see how walking a mile following a leader like you might feel like.

Actions and Consequences

“Heavy lies the head that wears the crown..”

Might it be safe to suggest that the Bard-of-Avon had achieved some clarity on what leaders go through!! He got it! Both: the making of decisions that may be best described as unfortunate, and suffering the consequences thereof. Well, that is what leaders go through when they fail to envision how their decisions and actions can have a spectrum of consequences! The risk-reward ratio needs almost an eternal scrutiny; and a vigilant leader is constantly aware of this.

But that sounds too much, especially for kids! So where do we start? When children learn responsibility for little everyday tasks, they truly learn and enjoy the privileges which they would otherwise not appreciate. It could be something as little as putting their toys away, or finishing their homework. Then I get to play, or watch TV! Believe it or not, playing and watching TV just got so much more rewarding because they earned it!!

As they get older, they can also learn elementary fiscal responsibility. If I save the ten bucks I got this week, I can buy that game next week. If I do my chore, I earn some money; if I spend more than I have, I will have none to buy icecream while the rest of the family get to enjoy theirs. As a parent, this might be one of the harder things: holding back from our children when we can so easily provide. But that’s what we do as parents, right? The tough choices. So that our kids have it better later. A good leader will have to weigh their decisions and make tough choices too, and it helps to have imbibed this habit into character. Leadership, exemplary leadership, is more about responsibility than it is about privileges.

Advocacy

Speak up for yourself, for your family, for your team, for your community! As parents, we are role models for our kids. When they see us taking a stand for what we believe is the right thing, it inspires them to take on tough situations in life. As leaders, they need to advocate for their groups, for their communities. Having the ability and the courage to take a stand, perhaps even the skill to express their thoughts and views in a coherent, powerful, and impactful manner is a quality we can help nurture in kids from a young age.

Leadership is about so much more than this. But if you get the fundamentals right, children usually find a solid footing to go by, and chart their own paths towards a better, meaningful life.


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