Youngsters are sponges. At a very early stage in their development, youth begin to emulate what they see from the adults around them. They begin to act like you, think like you and yes, lead like you do. There are an endless amount of responsibilities in parenting or being in any position of responsibility where children are concerned. Sometimes, if you pause to think of the overwhelming gravity of what you are charged with, it can be daunting, to say the least. Chief among your duties is modeling leadership characteristics for your children and other youths.
There are many examples of leaders in your children’s lives. There are parents, relatives, teachers, coaches, leaders in after-school activities, pastors, school administrators, the list goes on. All of these folks must realize the importance of their role in the lives of their respective wards. Leaders are not born. Leadership is taught and modeled throughout the developmental years of all people. Leadership is impacted by the crucible which is our upbringing and early formative experiences. Coupled with life experiences, people begin to develop styles of tackling various issues and this evolves into a leadership style.
Which characteristics are the most important? There are many, but I choose to concentrate on only four (plus).
Integrity – No trait is more important. It is the foundation of leadership. It requires honesty of self and truthfulness in your dealings with others. It can be the most difficult to teach because it requires that you also teach the trait of courage concurrently.
Judgment – The goal of parenting and impacting youth is to raise good decision makers. You quickly realize they will spend a majority of time away from you once they start school or as they get older. They have to make good decisions without you present. Good judgment always yields dividends. Poor decisions can stay with you forever.
Initiative – Identify what needs to be done and act on it. There are few traits more important in adulthood and developing it early cannot hurt. It is a key component to being the member of any team. They have to learn to operate under their own steam and without prodding.
Loyalty – Your kids will need to be able to identify this in others and at the same time show this trait to others in order to develop true friendships. I’m talking about the kind of friendships which seem to last a lifetime. Next to picking a spouse, who your children choose to call friends may be among the most impactful decisions of their lives.
Now, many will look at this incomplete list and add quite a few others to these traits. I would assert that any list is incomplete, but the emphasis on these few are as good a starting place as any. There are many opportunities to teach these traits or apply emphasis to others; youth sports, school, out of school activities, home life, etc. Look for opportunities to expand on these traits through conversation with your youth.
Look for more insights in my first book, Leadership for Youngsters, due to be published in the spring.