I just arrived back from England (Oxford & London), as well as South Africa (Johannesburg & Cape Town). All locations focused on Equipping leaders, and specifically emerging young ones too. So I thought it appropriate to share one of the best resources on helping you do just that. It’s the book “KidLead”. In it, Alan Nelson believes that we can, and should, start developing leaders when they are young. In KidLead, he argues persuasively that we should not wait until potential leaders are 25+ years old to develop them; we can start much earlier. He gives some great ideas for how to spot and develop young leaders, both in the home and outside it. For anyone with a passion for young people or leadership, this book will very encouraging and insightful. Enjoy the synopsis……
The goal of this book is to unleash leadership potential. Every child is filled with incredible potential in a variety of areas. Unfortunately, the typical leader in our culture doesn’t begin to receive formal leadership training until the ages of twenty-five through thirty-five, if at all. How sad that kids have to wait so long to not only lead but also to receive skill development in this area. As a result, we miss a very critical time in the point of young leaders’ lives when we can teach them the character components that may make or break their leading as adults.
Honesty, honor, integrity, servanthood, commitment, and responsibility are vital qualities in leading. Character is very important for effective leading, so learning leadership in the context of ethics is essential. When we interweave character issues with skills, we increase the likelihood these won’t be separated during leading. We should not assume leaders possess these qualities or understand how they apply to real-world situations. Good leadership development focuses on this intersection because when it fails to do this, collisions will occur.
The good news is that whether you’re a leader or not, you can grow the young leaders around you. Here is how:
Look at your child as a young leader. See his or her potential. Leadership development of your child begins between your ears, with how you think about him or her.
Treat your child as a young leader. The reason why we need to begin seeing our children as leaders is because this will directly affect how we treat them. How we treat them influences how they see themselves and, as a result, how they react.
Develop at-home opportunities to lead. You can, with a little tweaking, transform everyday activities into leadership training opportunities. The main point is that you can give your child a big head start in leadership by transitioning from parent to leadership coach in any number of ongoing chores and events.
Discuss leadership situations as they arise from school, news, movie and work. Nearly everyday, you’ll have life events, stories, and media that provide opportunities to talk about leadership, whether in brief sound bytes or more prolonged discussions. The goal is to make your child aware of situations where leaders influence others—for good and for bad—in order to create an unconscious orientation so that they can “read” leadership situations.
Find opportunities for leading in the community. The key, as in all leadership projects, is that you have a clear objective, that there are multiple people involved, and that you truly let your child lead, as opposed to telling him or her what to do and then calling the task leadership.
Introduce your child to other leaders. Leaders recognize other leaders. A child with leadership aptitude will have a certain amount of natural affinity with other leaders regardless of their age. When you are meeting someone who is a leader in his or her organization or field, go out of your way to have your child meet this person.
Help your child find a mentor. One thing parents can do to nurture their young leaders is help them find mentors who lead in different organizations and with varying style.
Seek formal and informal leadership training. When we detect musical talent, we get our child music lessons. When we discern academic ability, we move them toward AP classes and Gifted and Talented programs. When we observe athletic ability, we hire coaching from a pro and seek a competitive-level team. Why not the same with leadership?
We teach that KidLead training programs are not substitutes for parents and guardians being involved with leadership development in a child’s everyday life. The difference between a parent growing a great grown-up and being a leader developer is that the latter establishes leadership situations. There are three basic ingredients needed to constitute a “leadership” situation:
1. There needs to be at least two other people involved on the “team.” Great life skills are numerous, but leading is about helping others achieve together. Being in charge of one person is okay, but there are far more dynamics for learning leadership when you have a minimum of three.
2. There needs to be a measurable goal. What is expected? Measuring outcomes is important, but be sure that the objective involves setting direction, organizing and/or accomplishing it in a new way.
3. There needs to be legitimate authority. Although you’re ultimately responsible as the parent, your young leader needs to know that s/he has a certain amount of authority to determine how to accomplish the task. This is room to spread his or her wings. Being in charge creates confidence.
Most importantly, debrief after the project. Feedback questions are very important to the learning process, but they often get overlooked because we don’t make time for them and they can feel anticlimactic to the activity. “What went well? What didn’t go well? What could you do next time to be more effective?” Avoid scolding or punishing. Keep the questions neutral and matter-of-fact, and be very affirming. Treat your young leader the way you’d like to be treated as an adult in the workplace.
We do have the power to significantly improve the future by influencing those who are and will be influential. I can think of no greater legacy than to leave the world in the hands of people like these. Remember, if you want to change the world, focus on leaders. If you want to change leaders, focus on them when they’re young.