Leadership is one of those HOT TOPICS…something it is expected you should be encouraging and nurturing in your young people. However such an assumption can have you missing the greater picture. Leadership by very definition is to take action; it’s the ACTION of leading a group of people and having the ability to do this.
This is one very important aspect of helping your kids thrive, but only a very narrow aspect. Teaching children to contribute well to their community and learn to be a part of a team is the real crucial skill set needed to support them in their success. There are many roles and positions to play in this, and being a leader is just one of them.
We all know it creates a huge mess when there are too many chiefs and no one wants to be in the supporting roles! In many of the families that I work with I’m called in for intervention where the system of the family ‘team’ is breaking down. More than 80% of the time this is because for one reason or another the parents find themselves in a following role, rather than leading the household.
So, the first stage of mastering leadership is to LEARN TO FOLLOW –
Submit to something larger than yourself
Be comfortable and safe in that
This is a huge process, and something that modern day parenting, schooling and child nurturing techniques often skips over.
Each of us then needs to be calibrated to become an integral part of any team.
One way this can be achieved is through TOUGH LOVE with CLEAR AND CONSISTENT CONSEQUENCES for all unacceptable, unsociable or unsupportive choices.
It can also be achieved through sports and by great leadership role models within those sports. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, for example, is a wonderful way of encouraging self-discipline, mastery of the body and mind, and a true and valuable sense of self in all those who participate. It also demands great respect for those in authority. It teaches that respect is earned every day through the efforts and millions of little choices we make, rather than through some mysterious deserving right we were born with.
This is how a human is defined, this is how leaders arise and how support people flourish. This living lesson that can be achieved through participation in a sport is invaluable for teenagers discovering who they are and how they want to show up in the world.
While in this process of mastering the art of following, of being a crucial supporting role in a well functioning team, the second stage is experienced – MASTERY OF SELF. This is the stage many adults have skipped past, and the challenges that creates are evident everywhere. This space of learning to manage emotional states, personal agenda, and patterns and strategies in yourself is the secret ingredient to true leadership. Self…then others. Giving young people the TOOLS, GUIDANCE, SUPPORT and time they need to master themselves and to steer the ship of their own lives is vital.
From here, their leadership with others can be a natural overflowing of sharing what they have learned, continuing to discover is working for them and helping others achieve their own successful outcomes. This is actually what leadership is when it is working as it should be.
If you look at some of your best parenting choices, it’s when you are in your flow, feeling in charge in your own life, on track, and then that overflows into your relationship with your kids and family and the choices you make in guiding them.
These self-mastery skills are introduced to children in leadership programs in Queensland schools through Years 5, 6 and 7 as they prepare for and enter high school. Opportunities are offered to students in these years to run for leadership positions within the school at different levels and in various teams and groups. Notice if any spark your child’s interest, discuss it with them and stay open to what they are interested in without any of your own agenda in there.
These are wonderful moments for each child to ‘step up’ in themselves and discover more of what they are made of. They begin to be awarded more responsibility for those around them and see the bigger picture…not just ‘me, me, me’ but ‘we, we, we’. This is a rite of passage and a time to really celebrate who they are growing into. When they start experiencing their leadership days and focus through school, it is wonderful to be integrating this at home. Each child will experience this time differently and is at a different stage of development and interest, so it’s important this be encouraged.
Here’s some simple ideas of how to do this:
- Define what leadership means to each member of the family, what skills they are proud of that they identify they already have and what they would like to work on through the year. Discuss methods of encouraging this. Set goals together and really listen as not all aspirations are the same. For example, if they recognise they get shy or nervous meeting new people, what support or programs can you expose them to that help with this?
- Encourage individual responsibilities and family agreements at home. Make sure each person is responsible for appropriate management of his or her own day-to-day lives, chores, tasks, time management, and apply strict consequences when these aren’t handled properly.
- Take check of your own leadership; be sure you are leading with the power and strength you want to model to your children. If they have gently and slowly started to pull the reins out of your hands on things like mobile phones, social time, and rules for use of technological devices, then it is time to take charge again. Parents should maintain strict ownership and control of these things for every child living under their roof. Your home, your rules, your leadership! Children can then relax and learn how to manage a world that is vastly different with all those things in it.
- Encourage each other to stretch! Try new things, do the things that scare you and discover what you are made of. Set safe perimeters together around how this is allowed and not allowed. For example, we experience much of that with our children through sports.
Programs that encourage this mastery of self are of such value to everyone, particularly while going through the very defining times that happen through the teenage years. Programs like the Get Real youth events and leadership camps offer support and training in a social environment that allows young people to :-
Become masters over their own moods and emotional states,
To manage their self-talk and thoughts,
And clear out limitations that keep them feeling small.
From there it provides them a fun and gentle opportunity to participate in a community of other young people, leading, supporting and sharing from their own experiences all that they have discovered. This is where very natural leadership is born.
Master self, then others…always.