As we approach the launch of The Heart of Leadership, I’m reminded of how grateful I am that several of the leadership character traits I outline in the book were instilled in me early in life. I’ve not mastered all of them, but thanks to my parents, I wasn’t starting from scratch as an adult.
For years, when asked about helping someone develop leadership character traits, my response has most often been, “It’s called parenting.” I still stand by that sentiment. Thankfully, adults can still form and transform their character, but the best time is when we’re young.
Most parents work to instill fundamental character traits in their children - honesty, integrity, loyalty and the like - this is essential. The often untapped opportunity is to go beyond the foundational traits and begin, at an early age, to develop in children the traits and characteristics that will set them apart as adults - leadership character traits.
If you wanted to try this with your kids, grandchildren or with young people you know, how would you begin? Here are three ideas…
We give language to things we value. When my son was young, I created a plaque with some values on it that he hung in his room. We talked about them. They were the beliefs my wife and I wanted him to have when he left for college. Thankfully, he did. What are the leadership character traits you want to encourage? If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you know my list. Here’s a summary of what you’ll find in my upcoming book:
Hunger for Wisdom
Expect the Best
Respond with Courage
Think Others First
After decades of teaching leadership, I still believe more of it is caught than taught. That’s not to undermine the value of teaching. It’s just that teaching without modeling is hollow. Are the leadership character traits you’re trying to instill real or not? If they’re real, you should be able to see them in your life. Beyond raising two sons, I don’t know a lot about parenting, but I do know this. Children learn from and mimic the behaviors they see exhibited by their parents and other adults. Don’t just talk about leadership character, do your best to live it for them to see.
Michael Lebeof wrote a book entitled, The Greatest Management Principle. Here’s his conclusion: What gets recognized and rewarded gets repeated. This is a powerful idea, but Michael wasn’t the first to realize this – Plato said, “What is honored in a country is cultivated there.” The “country” can be your home, or office, or school. If we want our children to exhibit leadership character, affirm it and see more of those behaviors. That’s not as much about parenting as it is about human nature.
Name it – Model it – Affirm it. We’re all going to teach our children something - with intent and purpose or without. Perhaps leadership character is a good thing to add to your list. I’m glad my folks did this for me![GLS_Shield]