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Christian Parenting and Family Resources

Help Kids become Leaders

  • Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
  • 2004 11 Nov
  • COMMENTS
Help Kids become Leaders

Leadership isn't just for those who are outgoing and charismatic. It isn't based on any personality type or tied to any age or background. Instead, it's a set of skills that everyone - including kids - can learn to help them succeed in all areas of life.

If you're a parent, grandparent, teacher, coach, or friend, you can help the kids you care about overcome common challenges and negative peer pressure to reach their fullest potential. You can help them become the leaders God wants them to be.

Here's how you can help kids become leaders:

• Start early. Realize that the most influential leadership training in a child's life comes from his or her parents at home. Let your kids know that they are a top priority in your life. When kids know you care, their confidence soars. Make time to be actively involved in their lives, attending their activities and talking with them regularly. Strive to be a good role model; live the kind of life you want your kids to emulate. Understand what your kids are passionate about, and what challenges they face. Help them extract leadership lessons from their challenges. Point out leadership in action to them as you go about your daily lives, discussing both positive and negative examples. Encourage your kids to get out of their comfort zones and take risks.

• Emphasize teamwork. Recognize that a leader must always work with a team, because leadership is the ability to achieve goals through people. Leaders don't focus just on their own effort, but on how to inspire and motivate a team to achieve goals.

• Motivate them. Help kids understand why they should want to do the hard work necessary to become leaders. Let them know that the rewards of leadership - like satisfaction, meaning, significance, confidence, and contributions to others - far outweigh the rewards of simply following. Show them that leadership is fun. Challenge them, but don't overwhelm them - take time to work with them at their own pace. Empower them to make their own decisions as they grow.

• Hold up a mirror to young leaders. Show kids that they have leadership abilities. Let them know you believe in them and expect great things from them. Listen to what they say about their interests, ambitions, and dreams. Give them opportunities to lead.

Look for the following traits in them, and affirm them when you spot them: good character (honesty, reliability, maturity, etc.), a boldness to speak up, an ability to come up with creative ideas, an ability to solve problems, courage to take a stand for what they believe, people skills, determination, passion, communication skills, an eagerness to listen and learn, perseverance, confidence, an inquiring mind, discipline (showing up early, etc.), calmness under pressure, an eagerness to work hard, mental toughness, a sense of humor, a readiness to take charge, an ability to follow directions and obey orders, an attitude of inclusiveness and cooperation, raw energy that can be diverted in healthy ways (such as a mischievous yet bright child who needs better outlets for his or her energy), a positive attitude, an ability to stand out for what matters most (earning admiration for good values, even if not in the popular crowd), and spiritual strengths.

Focus more on kids' character traits than you do on their personality traits. Strive to discover and point out their hidden talents and abilities. Encourage them to use those talents and skills through leadership.

• Help them see a vision. Define what success looks like. Imagine the possibilities. Encourage kids to dream big dreams, develop a game plan based on their dreams, take action, measure their progress, and celebrate small victories along the way. Keep the vision clear and simple. Make it powerful, visual, and easy to imagine. Focus the vision on change. Help kids communicate the vision with contagious optimism. Have the vision demand sacrifice and inspire awe.

• Help them communicate well. Nurture kids' confidence in their ability to speak effectively to others. Share these tips on public speaking: Be organized and prepared, keep it simple, prepare simple notes instead of a written script; relax, become a storyteller, practice your talk, be aware of the nonverbal component of your talk (your tone of voice, your gestures, etc.), arrive early, never apologize for being nervous, don't worry about a few mistakes, be aware of your audience's attention span, and take questions.

Tell kids that words have tremendous power to either lead or mislead people. Train them to use words wisely.

• Help them build good people skills. Develop these skills in the kids you care about: affirmation (the ability to give realistic acknowledgement and praise to team members), authority (the ability to determine procedures, assign duties, promote efficiency, oversee activities, take responsibility, and hold people accountable), coaching (the ability to think strategically, to oversee, and to teach), conflict resolution (the ability to intervene in clashes, mediate disagreements, solve interpersonal problems, and unify the team), counseling (the ability to listen with empathy and help people), delegating (the ability to entrust responsibility and authority to others on the team), facilitating (the ability to manage the interaction and dialogue in a group), fairness (the ability to hear complaints and resolve them courteously, tactfully, justly, and impartially), hospitality (the ability to entertain guests to further the team's goals and enhance its unity and spirit), motivation (the ability to encourage and inspire people to achieve their best performance), negotiating (the ability to exchange information, opinions, ideas, and things of value to reach a mutually beneficial conclusion or decision), organization (the ability to plan and arrange events), persuasion (the ability to influence others to accept the team's perspective), recruitment (the ability to attract and acquire the best people for the team), sociability (the ability to meet and converse with strangers in a relaxed and friendly way), and teaching (the ability to impart knowledge to others and train others in the kills they need to perform their tasks for the team).

Let kids know that it doesn't take much effort - sometimes just a positive word or a handshake - to change people's lives.

• Help them build good character. Know that great leadership begins with great character. Build these character qualities in the kids you're helping: integrity, honesty, diligence, patience, humility, responsibility, self-discipline, courage, perseverance, fairness, tolerance, compassion, self-sacrifice, and faith.

Model good character for kids by being a person of absolute integrity. Give your kids regular religious instruction. Serve others. Involve your kids in sports, where they can build character as part of a team. Praise and correct kids on the basis of character. Allow kids to experience the consequences of poor choices. Talk to kids about heroes. Post inspirational quotes in your home to remind your kids of positive values.

• Help them build competence. Recognize that competence is a combination of five qualities: knowledge, experience, confidence, commitment to excellence, and competitiveness. Help kids gain knowledge through education. Encourage them to take opportunities to gain the experience that will improve their skills. Affirm them and believe in them to increase their confidence. Teach them, through your words and example, to be committed to excellence. Give them plenty of opportunities to test their competitive spirit. Urge kids to use their God-given talents as they lead.

• Help them be bold. Give kids opportunities and challenges that will build their confidence and stretch their courage. Motivate them to take risks and take bold stands for their convictions and principles. Be an example of bold leadership so they'll remember you as a role model when they face challenges of their own. Help kids approach leadership as an adventure.

• Help them be servants. Point to Jesus Christ as the ultimate role model for leaders - a servant leader who loves and empowers people. Help kids avoid being bosses who seek to wield power for its own sake and try to control others. Encourage them to be humble and think of what's best for the team instead of just themselves.

Help them give up attempts to control, view servanthood as an end in itself (not a means to an end), examine and purify their motives for wanting to lead, live a lifestyle of love and caring, be obedient followers as well as leaders, humbly depend on God's power rather than their own, and share recognition and glory with others rather than hoarding it for themselves.

• Mentor them. Invest your life into a child in a deep and personal way to help that child's character grow. Be an active role model who befriends a child, helps the child learn, and encourages him or her to put that learning into practice.

Strive to be that child's hero! Spend time with the child on a regular basis, getting to know him or her well. Discuss values, goals, and faith together. Let the child know that you recognize and appreciate specific good qualities you see in his or her life. Keep lines of communication open. Seize every teachable moment. Express your unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Be consistent and dependable, keeping your promises. When you're wrong, admit it. Remember that the child you mentor is constantly watching you; make sure your words and behaviors are positive ones.

Develop a vital relationship with God. Talk about character, attitudes, and virtues. Talk about heroes. Let kids see you do hard work, and join you in it. Praise good efforts kids make, even if they fail. Set firm limits. Know how the child you mentor is doing in school, and help that child succeed academically. Have fun together.


Adapted from Coaching Your Kids to be Leaders: The Keys to Unlocking Their Potential, copyright 2005 by Pat Williams. Published by Warner Faith, a Time Warner Book Group, New York, NY, www.twbookmark.com.

Pat Williams is the senior vice president of the Orlando Magic basketball team. He is a popular motivational speaker averaging more than 100 appearances a year. Williams has spent 42 years in professional baseball and basketball as a player and executive. He served as general manager of the world champion Philadelphia 76ers and managed the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks. Williams is the author of 32 books. He and his wife Ruth are parents of 19 children, including 14 adopted from four nations.