How to help your child become a leader

By Janis Meredith | Posted 7/9/2014

Are leaders born or made?

Dr. William A. Cohen, president of the Institute of Leader Arts, concludes that effectiveness as a leader depends "less on some innate trait that you are born with and much more on specific principles that anyone can follow." He lists those principles as integrity, commitment, a positive attitude, competency, good communication, selflessness and a willingness to set an example.

If that is true, can we teach our kids how to be leaders by teaching them to live by those principles?

You may think you know kids who are natural born leaders. Take another look. They are strong-willed, outgoing, aggressive, opinionated; they get attention and may even influence others. But does that make them leaders?

Leadership is more than being loud and getting noticed. It is being a person who others respect and want to follow.

Who your children become depends largely on how they are raised. You can shape tomorrow's leaders by teaching leadership traits and skills to your children.

Here's how:

  • Look for positive traits and affirm them. 
  • Start when your kids are young. The most influential leadership training in a child's life comes from parents modeling the type of people they want their kids to be.
  • Build their self-confidence. Kids gain confidence when they feel love and security. 
  • Teach them to make decisions and solve problems. 
  • Emphasize teamwork. Since leadership is the ability to achieve goals through people, it's not just about "me" but about "us." Leaders don't just focus on their own effort but on how to inspire and motivate a team to achieve goals. 
  • Focus more on kids' character traits than on their personality traits. Look inside at who they really are, not outside at how timid or aggressive they seem. Strive to discover and point out their hidden talents and abilities. 
  • Encourage their dreams. 
  • Help them communicate. Teach them how to confront people, how to express their feelings and beliefs, how to ask questions and even how to conduct themselves in front of a group. 
  • Teach them to manage money — and other things, such as time and resources. 
  • Show them people skills: respect for authority, gratitude, listening, delegating, fairness, hospitality and the ability to negotiate. 

Our world needs positive leaders, and you can help shape tomorrow by starting right in your home.

Janis  B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. Check out her Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series with survival guides for football, softball, basketball and volleyball moms.