Many of today’s business leaders come home to families and children at the end of the day. Sometimes, the roles of leader and parent can become conflated, especially as these leaders try to instill in their children values and attributes related to leadership. After all, the children of today will become tomorrow’s leaders, so it’s important to teach them how to lead. Leadership skills often naturally develop, but parents can do a lot to advance these skills in their children. Here are some of the most effective ways of instilling a sense of leadership in children.
Stop focusing on achievement.
Parents who want high-achieving children tend to focus a great deal on achievement, but this is a faulty strategy. Focusing on achievement alone can cause children to feel inadequate and make them dwell on the goal rather than the path to that goal. In the end, this approach tends to stunt growth rather than encourage it. After all, work does not get done by achievement but by understanding how to achieve through hard work and diligence. Children obsessed with achievement often fail to see how they can help the people around them and, in turn, receive help so that everyone succeeds. By focusing on themselves, these children struggle to develop teamwork skills, which are ultimately much more important on the road to success.
Provide space for risk and failure.
Business leaders know better than most that success necessitates risk. Parents who become overprotective of their children discourage them from taking risks. Unfortunately, many of the most important lessons are learned through failure, which teaches the importance of taking risks. When parents provide space for risk, children learn how to calculate which risks are worth taking and which are not. This also lets children become used to failure. For virtually everyone, the road to success is paved with failure. Children who are afraid of failure will never step out of their comfort zone. On the other hand, people who have become accustomed to failure understand how to learn from it and then take more informed risks in the future.
Show a bit of vulnerability.
Parents are naturally the heroes of their children. Because children look up to them, parents can sometimes have the instinct of hiding their faults and mistakes to protect their kids from falling into the same traps. At the same time, parents who do not show any vulnerability set an incredibly high bar for their children. In the end, kids may internalize their failure and think that they are the only ones who make mistakes. This mindset can do serious harm to resiliency or cause children to simply give up trying. Leaders understand that everyone is human—and great leaders learn this lesson at a young age.
Instill negotiation skills early.
Most parents give their children a firm yes or no answer, but parents who are business leaders may take a different approach. Some will make an offer, such as giving in to a request as long as the child performs some task. Giving the child space to counter this offer teaches negotiation at a young age and builds a business mindset. Of course, parents also need to set boundaries. Negotiating with children does not mean giving in easily, nor does it mean never giving a firm no. Children also need to learn the value of delayed gratification, which is largely the foundation of the business world. Some joy exists in working hard toward a goal, and kids can learn this in how their parents respond to requests.
Provide genuine but limited praise.
Business leaders understand the value of praise as both a motivator and a booster for self-esteem. Parents may think that extra praise results in even greater gains in self-esteem, but this is not the case. With genuine praise, children come to believe in themselves. With too much praise, kids can become complacent and lazy. Sometimes, the “participation trophy” mentality instills a false sense of confidence or even confuses children who know that they are not performing well. Parents should share their sense of pride with their children, but they should also provide a sense of balance.
Model the importance of emotional intelligence.
One of the most important traits that parents can model for their children is emotional intelligence. While the idea of emotional intelligence is complex, parents can teach their children compassion and empathy by relating to them on their level. When parents take the time to truly understand a child’s perspective, that child learns how good it feels to be heard and will become giving other people in the same respect by listening intently and trying hard to understand their position. When children learn to empathize early, it becomes intuitive, which is critical for success as a leader. According to TalentSmart, which conducted research involving more than 1 million individuals, more than 50 percent of a leader’s job performance is related to emotional intelligence.