How to Help Your Children Grow as Leaders

Leadership development is not just for grown-ups. If you’ve been with me for a while you know how passionate I am about this. Most of us take a deliberate approach to developing other skills in our kids early on: we teach them to swim, to ride a bike, to read, and read music, as early as we can. Leadership development should be no different. The earlier we can ingrain these skills, the more natural they will feel.

I was recently interviewed for this awesome article by Mryna Beth Haskell: Are You Raising a Leader? She does a great job of pulling together several nice perspectives. I’ve included an excerpt here, and hope you will read on.

Are You Raising a Leader?

Some children seem to effortlessly fall into the role of leader, no matter what the environment. However, there are those children who are late bloomers. These are the ones who blend in early on, but blossom with maturity and become presidents of their high school class or captains of a varsity team.

What does this tell us about the development of leadership qualities in our youth? Why do some young people take charge of school projects and playground activities with ease, while others are happy to take the proverbial back seat? Are leaders born or nurtured?


“Talent for leadership is a combination of nurture and nature. Leadership requires the building of a strong central core,” says Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., a nationally recognized family and child development expert, author, and educator.

Karin Hurt, CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, LLC (, adjunct professor at the University of Maryland and prominent keynote speaker, explains, “Important leadership skills can be nurtured in all children. Of course, some personalities will be more drawn to leadership roles, but the truth is that every one of us will face situations in our lives where strong leadership skills are necessary to accomplish something we believe in.”

If nurture is a substantial influence, how can parents encourage their children to embrace those qualities that successful leaders possess? Continue reading 

Also, if you’re new here, and interested in the subject, you may also like to take a look at Alli Polin’s and my FREE eBook, A Parent’s Guide to Leadership.

Developing Leadership Qualities in Kids

Thanks for tuning in to Let’s Grow Leader’s Saturday Series for developing leadership in kids. On Monday we return to our regular leadership fare.

Today is a guest post from Curtis Fletcher. 

Developing Leadership Qualities in Kids

Imagine almost any adult gathering you’ve ever attended. It could be a workshop, dinner party, political rally, anything. There are always those first few moments when the people who didn’t previously know each other begin to mingle and meet.

If you listen carefully to those conversations they contain some interesting probing questions about profession, education, hobbies maybe, but the answers are even more telling. The answers include job title, degree, or length of experience and credentials.

It’s almost comical how much adult conversation, especially introductory conversation, is spent in determining ranking. Who is going to play the dominant role and who is going to play the more subservient role? In short, who is the leader?

As adults we have all kinds of cues from which to draw hierarchy and we do it almost unconsciously all of the time. By way of example? How many are already wondering about my qualifications to be writing about developing leadership in children?

Because your typical kid doesn’t have this vast array of information to draw from leadership roles in childhood tend to derive from much more primitive characteristics: biggest, strongest, loudest, etc. You could even make an argument for parental social status rich kids win out over poor kids kind of thing.

As a result, unless we’re content to leave the development of future leaders to the whims of natural selection alone or some modern approximation of monarchical inheritance, we need to employ some adult wisdom in helping kids try on leadership to see if it fits.

This approach assumes that there is adult involvement in helping guide kids through the a leadership experience and so, as that adult, you need to help your young charge by taking four actions in regards to their leadership:

1. You have to Endorse it.

Adult endorsement helps kids overcome those tendencies towards natural selective processes. In fact, the less obvious the leader from the stand point of those bigger, stronger, faster characteristics the more important the adult endorsement.

Remember the objective here is not to see who naturally takes over, though there are times for that too, the objective is to help kids develop their own leadership skills, qualities and abilities.

2. You have to Define it.

Simply stated here you can’t just tell a kid to ”lead” you have to give them some boundaries. “You’re in charge for this project, or this class period, or this practice.” By establishing this kind of boundary you help the kid understand where their leadership begins and ends.

Just because you put a student in charge of the math circle doesn’t mean you expect them to be a kickball captain at recess but THEY may not know that unless you define the boundaries.

3. You have to Goal it.

As adults we hate being given charge of something for which there is no well-defined desired outcome. How much more so for a kid trying to sort out what it means to lead?

“You’re in charge Timmy, I need you to be sure everything is under control.” Yikes, I’d hate THAT as an adult!

“Suzy, I’m putting you in charge. We need to have everyone in their seat, tables cleaned up, at ten o`clock.” This is not only clear, but it is achievable. Even the language in this second example is better. Using the word “we” reinforces the endorsement of the leader.

4. You have to Evaluate it.

Feedback after the fact is important and a significant part of that evaluation should be living by the results of the choices the young leader has made. Let them know how they did but also let them see where their decisions lead.

We often think of natural selection as nature’s way of giving certain people an edge. If you want to give your young leaders their own edge in learning how to lead you can do so by making sure you Endorse, Define, Goal, and Evaluate their leadership experiences.

About the author:

Curtis Fletcher has been involved in teaching, coaching, and mentoring kids of all ages for most of his life, whether that was as a high school student corralling the younger kids at family camp, teaching in the classroom, or as a high school football coach.
Curtis currently leads as a Senior Manager with Hitachi Consulting helping corporations understand how to create excellent customer experience.

His blog is Unforced Perspectives

Note: Curtis is also great at developing grown-ups as well.

Dad Says: Best Advice From YOUR Dads

In the spirit of Fathers Day, my son Ben (17) and I set out to collect as much fatherly advice as we could in a week. We asked everyone we knew or ran into friends, work, school, church, airports, restaurants, and random encounters “what’s the best advice you ever got from your dad?”

The question also became a conversation piece in a wide variety of contexts and our whole family got involved. We had people talking about this in team-builders, men’s breakfasts, church meetings, fire stations, summer camps, executive dinners, knitting groups and through our social networks. One friend got so engaged in the process he collected responses from 4 generations of family.

Sebastian (6) also got into the game, taking his own notes “be a taim plare (be a team player)” and “folo yor hirt (follow your heart).”

Ben and Mom’s Top Picks

  1. Don’t listen to your father (Karin’s Dad, from his Dad, MD)
  2. Have faith– but there is no RIGHT faith (Ben’s friend, Matthew who collected 4 generations of advice, MA)
  3. Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance (Sean, our waiter, CA)

We received hundreds of responses from 5 countries.

The folks we talked to fell into 3 clusters:

  • the eager to engage

About two third of the folks we asked were excited to engage, and had compelling and interesting stories that came along with their advice. A few got choked up, as did we more than once in the process

  • those who preferred not to talk

MANY others had almost the opposite reaction. In these cases our questions were answered with silence or a quick attempt to change the subject. This was the most troubling and surprising part of this process

  • and “gee, my dad didn’t SAY a lot but showed a lot in his DOING

Our favorite was from Magesh in India “he once helped a poor child in the area by paying for him to have a heart operation. I sure learned a lot from him.”

“Sorry Ben. This is one that I can’t contribute to. Not many words were passed from my Dad to me that would fall into your category.
The only thing that I can share is, don’t let it happen to you- always talk to your kids and encourage them without shouting or threatening.
Love you guy”.

So when Dads DO talk what do they say?

Top Topics (and some good -or fun- examples)

Tried and True (19%)

“Do unto others”

“Don’t sweat the small stuff”

“Measure twice, cut once”

School & Knowledge (14%)

“If you don’t ask, you won’t know”

“Girls are just as good in math as boys”

“Never listen to the damn doctor”

How to Be and Improve (11%)

 ” Du kannst dich drehen und wenden wie du willst, der Arsch bleibt immer hinten” ( you can turn around as much as you want, the ass always stays in back)

“Figure out what people need and give it to them”

“Names are important. Really important. Never bluff. Ask again”

“As you know, my parents escaped from Vietnam to come to America. The one advice that my father gave me that stays with me is Ask yourself what you would do if you were not afraid My parents taught me to not let fear stop you, but rather move you.”

Dreams, Inspiration and Spirituality (11%)

“Believe in yourself and continue to inspire others the way you inspire me”

“Put your effort and time into the things you love doing”

“Talent is handy, it’s not essential”

Integrity and Respect (10%)

“Strive to always tell the truth, regardless of the consequences”

“Don’t worry about what others say if you are doing it for the right reasons”

“Be honest, open and upfront about anything and everything. You may not be liked today, however you will be respected tomorrow.

Relationships and Dating (9%)

“Girls like to be kissed”

“If you want your wife to be pretty, you’d better clean your plate. When you leave bits of food all over your plate, that’s what your wife’s face will look like.”

“Marry this one”

Family (8%)

“What did your mother say?”

(If I spoke rudely) “Mom is your mother, but she is my wife don’t forget that”

“Find something specific about your daughter to like every day. Let her know you found it”

Sports (7%)

“Don’t throw like a girl”

“Whenever possible, throw strikes”

“When in doubt, grab a glove and go out back”

The Basics: Finances, Food and Drink (6%)

“Cheese and crackers and a beer make a nice snack”

“Don’t complain about your weight while eating a snickers bar”

“Never walk over a penny”

Cars and Driving (5%)

“Don’t date a man with bald tires on his car”

“Always remember where you parked your car”

“Turn your head when you change lanes”

Thanks, Dads. Happy Fathers Day.


Karin and Ben

Please let us know your Dad’s best advice