Time for Leadership

“Mom, do you know, I share my birthday with Abraham Lincoln?” my son proudly proclaimed. “Why this ecstasy about sharing the birthday?” I quizzed. “ Isn’t it great to be sharing birthday with such a great leader!” My son’s research as part of his leadership summit speech got him to understand the leadership style of two distinguished, but antagonist style leaders – Abraham Lincoln and Adolf Hitler

abrahamm linWhat is it that even after 147 years of his assassination,  Abraham Lincoln endures to inspire people from all walks of life across globe? Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of America, a quintessential example of an accomplished leader, stood tall as a people’s person. He strongly believed in ‘Government of the people, by the people and for the people’. Being compassionate and caring, he would get out of the office and circulate among his troops. Infact, MBWA (managing by wandering around) has been the cornerstone of Lincoln’s personal leadership philosophy. In modern leadership architecture, this is referred by different phrases like ‘being in touch’ or ‘getting out of ivory tower’. The key is establishing human contact. He listened carefully to his men irrespective of their ranks and did everything to solve their problems.

 While being absolutely humble, Lincoln was at the same time supremely confident. In spite of coming from a poor family he rose to such exalted position owing to his self-confidence and self-respect. His decisiveness brought exceptional changes in the nation, by abolishing slavery and by persecuting the civil war. Honesty and integrity were integral part of Lincoln’s leadership philosophy. This led to his being labeled as ‘Abe Honesty’ which is perpetuated till date.

What makes a good leader? I have heard people commenting “he is a born leader”. Are leaders born or can the skills and abilities be acquired and developed? This has been a topic of endless debate. Lots have been written and discussed about it. I will not transform this post into a Corporate Leadership Development Training session; rather dwell briefly on how we can encourage leadership qualities in our kids.

leadership 1Encourage to take responsibility: A leader takes responsibility. When something goes wrong, it is nothing but human tendency to blame others or make excuses for what happened. Encourage kids to owe up to their mistakes. Make them understand that it is normal to err; success is to learn from these errors. We cannot change the action of others, but we can definitely change our reaction.

Confidence: This is a vital quality not only for being a leader but in all spheres of life.  Encouragement, positive reinforcement, words of praise on any accomplishment, avoiding criticizing goes a long way in building the confidence and self-esteem of kids. Keep repeating the phrase ‘you can do it’ to instill that ‘never give up’ attitude.

Effective and meaningful communication: Communication is not just about expressing our views, but it is the art of listening and then responding appropriately. Train kids to listen to others. Allow kids to express their views; complete their sentence and only then should we respond. This way kids learns not to interrupt when others are speaking.

Creative Thinking: ‘Thinking out of the box’ can be promoted in children as early as 18 months. Rather than leaving creativity to chance, it has to be valued and encouraged by engaging in games and activities. Ask questions like “What will happen if..”, “can you imagine if…”, “List 10 things that you can do with…”

leadership 2Organizational skills: This can start with small things like getting kids organized at home by making priority list of homework and other chores, making shopping list, organizing or rearranging their room/ wardrobe.  Provide kids with opportunities to take decisions like planning and organizing the logistics of a trip or a birthday party. Encourage kids to volunteer and take responsibilities in a club. They need to learn not only to take up a task but also to progress it to its completion

Integrity: There is no better way than teaching by example. Parents have to walk the talk. Another tool in younger kids is telling stories, encouraging kids to read books which emphasize on the value of integrity – Satyameva jayate (truth alone triumphs).

In short, encouragement and support we provide to our kids in their daily life plays a profound role in building their thoughts and personality. Continuous conversation and involvement with what they do is crucial. We can lead them to being great leaders.

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