Parents as Leadership Coaches

It’s interesting to see leaders who take their servant leadership philosophy seriously at work, but have a more hovering approach when it comes to their children. In an effort to protect and scaffold, they actually overlook natural opportunities for their children to emerge as leaders. The best way to learn the piano is to practice. The best way to learn to do a flip-turn is to get in the pool and get some water up your nose. The best way to learn leadership is by leading. Our children surprise us when we stop looking for perfection and see the leaders that they are becoming.

Having my kids spread so far apart, I’ve had the joy of my son, Ben, now a college freshman, really mature into an inspiring leader across many contexts at school, the community, at church, and even working with the United Nations. As I was writing the Parent’s Guide to Leadership, I asked him what he remembers most about our work on leadership growing up.

Ben shared:

“It’s not just one technique, but an entire parenting philosophy. I was always involved and given a great deal of responsibility in decisions. We worked out a lot of plans together.”

This Summer I’ve had the joy of working with him as a true partner as he interns for Let’s Grow Leaders. As I prepared a trust workshop for a group from Nigeria, we shared ideas of what exercises would work best culturally, I wrote content, he made slides and tools pop visually.

We discovered how differently our brains worked and the wonderful synergy that came from really listening to each other’s ideas. There were times I was taking direction from him. It was fun to work together as partners, with the parent- child boundaries beginning to blur.

This week we’re Scuba diving and the roles are completely reversed. An aspiring Scuba instructor, it’s clear he’s got more confidence, competence and commitment than me for this sport. I’m mostly there to play with the fishes (and take great pics). I do whatever he says and follow his underwater hand signals no questions asked. I feel safe under his leadership. It’s fun and fulfilling to tread some water and follow your child as they lead the adventure.

Introducing A Parent’s Guide To Leadership

Today, I’m pleased to share with you the Parent’s Guide to Leadership: How To Inspire Leadership in Young Children which I’ve co-written with Alli Polin with a guest chapter from Matt McWilliams, This is a free e-book available for download. Click here to get your Parent’s Guide to Leadership and you’ll receive an email with a link to download. This won’t subscribe you to my blog (you’ll need to do that separately if you want to join the fun). This list is just for folks interested in leadership and parenting. We’ve got a children’s picture book in the works as well, and we’ll keep you posted when that’s published.

Posted in Developing Leadership In Children and tagged , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.


  1. Karin,
    You and Alli are right on the money. When I spoke at my Dads memorial service. I said “my Dad was the definition of a Servant Leader, not only at work but at home. He let us learn and grow, had the needed tough conversations when we got too far off the path, then told us how proud he was.” If as parents we don’t allow our children to make mistakes they will never learn. We guide, we teach and we help them when asked to make the best decisions.
    Great post and ebook.

    Thanks for all you do.


    • Tom,
      Thanks so very much! I really appreciate your kind words. Thanks for sharing your story about your Dad.

  2. Hello Karin,

    This is a perfect blog post for me today. I look forward to reading your ebook. I am a parent of four children and program manager of a girls leadership program. I continue to look for resources as a parent on how I can bring out the strengths of my children and give them opportunities to lead. I am using Strength Finders with the program and now with my own children. Thank you for this additional resource for me as a parent to help me build leaders for tomorrow.

    Kathy Magnusson

  3. Congratulations on your book! This is so exciting…It will be an important book for parents tring to understand how to coach their children on how to be leaders.

    Can’t wait to read it 🙂

    • LaRae, Thanks so very much. Now on to write about Energizing leadership 😉

  4. Servant leadership is practiced in my work environment so it only makes sense to bring that model into my home… Providing the foundation for an exciting future for my children in what ever they choose to do

  5. Something I’ve learned in the past 2 years: Get children to serve others early. Being a servant leader doesn’t need to wait for adult or teen years.

  6. Interesting idea, focusing on how parents can develop leaders. More broadly, I like to think about how our experiences with children impart key “life lessons” if we let them try things and process with them what they are learning.

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