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.

Effective Networking - Six Secrets Your Kids Know

Effective Networking: 6 Secrets Your Kids Know

We’d spent the last five days reconnecting as a family, completely dark from any semblance of social networking while on this cruise to Mexico. Normally, it’s cool to meet other travelers, but this trip, we needed rest.

The final evening’s entertainment was a magic show.

My son, Sebastian, was lucky enough to be selected as the “assistant.” I wasn’t shocked by his hammy performance (he comes by that naturally). It’s what happened next that intrigued me.

As we exited the auditorium, people approached my son and began waving and congratulating him from across the room. He had stories about everyone. “Oh those are the women who taught me Mexican dominos at the pool, they live in Bri-ain,” trying to work his Liverpudlian accent, “but are really from Daaaalllas,” adding a drawl.

“You remember Abe, he calls himself the sausage king. He’s half deaf but likes to play the drums.”

The pattern continued as we hopped on the elevator. “She’s the mommy of the girl I played ping-pong with on Tuesday.” And then on the way to dinner. And then again in the customs line the next day. This kid had connections.

The truth is most kids make friends more easily than grown-ups. We start being open to new connections and grow ourselves out of it.

What Kids Can Teach Us About Networking

Kids can teach us a lot about networking. Try working a few of their approaches into your networking.

  1. Kids have no agenda.  They don’t think, “Gee, if I meet this girl, maybe she’ll introduce me to her brother with the Pokemon shirt. He may have a card in his collection I need.” Nope, they just join in and see what happens. They build relationships for the sake of relationships.
  2. Kids are open to new relationships. If someone introduces themselves, they don’t question motive.  Kids don’t wonder, “What’s this guy really want?”  They get past the small talk sooner. “Yeah, my math teacher’s really mean too … but maybe it’s me, I hate math.”
  3. Kids play. You’re going to meet a lot more people playing in the pool than on the deck. Kids get in the pool. Play leads to natural interaction and builds relationships.
  4. Kids share toys. Most kids are taught to share their toys, and doing so leads to friendships. Grown-ups lose this instinct. I’m always amazed in my fitness class by grown-ups fight over weights that don’t even belong to them. You can only use one set at a time, but everyone likes to have choices in front of them, just in case. Asking the person one mat over to “borrow” their weights typically leads to a dirty look. No one proactively offers. Most grown-ups don’t follow the same rules they teach their kids.
  5. Kids follow-up.  When they meet someone they like, they attach more quickly. “That was fun, are you going to the kid’s club after dinner? Wanna meet at the pool again tomorrow?” They don’t call it networking. They have no system, they just ask.
  6. Kids bounce back. – No one likes to feel rejected. But most kids seem to accept casual slights for what they are. They don’t over-analyze. “What happened to John?” “Oh, he didn’t want to play anymore.” They move on. Which of these approaches do you need to try in your networking?

    Related Articles

 Children’s Books On Leadership: Questions to Inspire Young Thinking

The Biggest Networking Mistake

How to Network: 18 Networking Tips You Can Use Today

Making the Invisible, Visible For Our Children

How do we make the invisible, visible for our children? The next in our Saturday Series in developing leadership in kids. On Monday we return to our regular leadership fare.

A Guest Post from Sonia Di Maulo, Canada

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.Jonathan Swift 

Samuel picks up the slightest change in his environment. He senses that his mom needs a hug. And of course, mom is grateful. Later that afternoon, he deliberately annoys his little brother, and a mini-war ensues.

Samuel makes choices every day. At ten years old, sometimes he chooses well. What is it about his environment that leads him towards his choices?


The connection he has with his mother is one of mutual trust, respect and love. In that environment, he is more in tune with the needs of the people around him. The connection he has with his brother has a heightened sense of competition added to the brotherly love. And so the same boy behaves differently in different situations.

As parents, how can we guide our children to align their words and actions to their values, independent of the environment? How can we help them infuse their surroundings with LIFE, based on LIFE-giving principles? With the ability to see the domino effect and to influence their future words and actions?

It starts with self-awareness.

A Dinner Activity: Making the Invisible, Visible

“Getting my kids to talk about the details of their days is hard enough”, you may be thinking, “How can I get them to increase their self-awareness to be able to see the connections that they affect everyday?”

At every dinnertime, I expect my kids to reflect on their days and to pick out one high point and one low point. This excellent game builds awareness of self and environment and boosts their ability to influence their future actions and words for the next daily report.

Game: High Point/Low Point

How to Play: Every member of the family shares the best part and lowest part of their day. Other family members listen and ask questions to get to the details.

Objective of the Game: Making visible, the lines that connect us all and increase self-awareness

Number of Players: 2 or more

Keys to Success: Consistent play every dinner time, make it fun, keep it short, show interest, encourage laughing and connection

Why Play? This game builds essential communication skills and cultivates family unity. It encourages:

  • Thinking about, selecting, and communicating emotional events in their day
  • Respectful listening to all members of the family
  • Conversation
  • Critical thinking and self-awareness
  • Building leadership skills from a very young age (as soon as they can speak, you can play)

We’ve been playing this game for years, at dinnertime, during vacations, and on road trips. We built variations on the theme and turned it into: “What was the favorite/least favorite part of your vacation, of the movie, of your field trip” and so on.

Try it with your family for a month and let me know how it goes.

Sonia Di Maulo M.A. ― founder, author, feedback enthusiast, speaker, performance improvement professional and creator of award-winning programs ― is passionate about helping leaders cultivate trust and collaboration.

This post is part of the Virtual Blog Book Tour for Sonia’s book, The Apple in the Orchard: A story about finding the courage to emerge. Discover the new vision for the world of work and get a glimpse into the power of living systems as models for sustainability, collaboration, and growth. Purchase your copy at Visit the other stops on the Book Tour on her Harvest Performance Blog.


Leadership for Kids: A Great Way To Teach Your Kids About Leadership

What Does Your Mommy Do?

I have never had one of those jobs they sing about on Sesame Street.

As with most of us, the roles I have assumed over the years are hard to explain.

But if you ask my kids what I do, they have a short answer, “my mom is a leader.”

Probe further, and you’ll get more:

  • “She asks a lot of questions”
  • “She helps people figure things out”
  • “She teaches people stuff”
  • “She has a team”
  • “She tries to make work more fun”

They know because they live it.

Some would argue it’s because I have no work-life balance, and by some definitions, I suppose that’s true.

On the other hand…

My kids have learned about leadership by…

  • traveling with me
  • working booths at special events
  • sitting on my lap while I took on-line leadership trainings (they got the answers right)
  • watching me manage late night and weekend crises
  • overhearing countless calls
  • hearing me make tough choices
  • helping me host dinners for my team
  • seeing what makes me angry
  • watching how I handled stress (not always well)
  • sharing in my victories
  • processing the stories
  • partnering with me in volunteer work

Is this lifestyle for everyone, absolutely not. Are there tradeoffs? You bet. Everyone’s goals, values and circumstances are different. For me, letting them into my world and talking about why I do what I do, seems to help.

My experience has been that kids…

  • want to understand what you really do
  • are interested in how you make decisions
  • are capable of learning a great deal about leadership
  • can apply those skills in their own situations
  • want to talk about leadership

There is also more room for work-life integration than most people think.

Are you a parent-leader? Please enjoy our free e-book, Parents Guide to Leadership click here to download.