Leadership skills is a combination of many characteristics which enable children to take control of their lives. Although there are natural born leaders and every effective group requires both leaders and followers, with support and encouragement from an early age, all children have potential leadership skills which can be developed and enhanced.
It is important to stress to children that leadership is about being in control of ones own life.Children need to be encouraged to think of things which they can make happen, rather than things happening to them. With the main areas of leadership focusing on communication, teamwork, negotiation, planning and persistence; it gives parents a myriad of opportunities to enhance their childrens growing skill base in every day activities.
Followers and Leaders.
There is a careful balance in group dynamics which is often difficult to explain to younger or shy children. Natural leaders in children's groups tend to be very outgoing or ego centric individuals and its not until children are able to look at the roles they play before they begin to understand the subtleties and importance of the roles within a group.
Children who are primarily followers and who tend to quickly cower in the face of peer pressure and risky temptation, often simply lack vital decision-making and self-assertion skills. Through encouragement and different opportunities to build these skill areas, they will become more confident in asserting and utilising their leadership role.
Children need to appreciate that there are times and situations where it is appropriate to switch between being a leader to a follower and visa versa. They also need to understand the importance of a good support group within the role of a follower and that there is nothing shameful or ‘wimpy’ about it.
Simply pushing someone towards the role of leader does not mean that they will be a good or effective leader. The title itself means little unless they have earned it and the respect of those around them and have the self confidence to step into it.
As children, natural leaders are normally those who assume initiative whenever the opportunity arises within playtime. They will involve themselves in organising things or people and are generally very creative and have good communications skills from and early age. However, with encouragement, every child can assume the mantle of leadership within a part of their lives.
When teaching leadership for kids, parents might like to employ role playing to pose hypothetical peer situations to get children thinking about how they might address situations that they are faced with in the future.
Ingredients of Leadership
A necessary ingredient for teaching kids leadership skills is encourage their verbal expression. Good communication involves both listening and communicating effectively. Parents and careres can provide opportunities for children to listen first so that they know what others are speaking first and to speak in a clear confident manner.
Collaboration and teamwork is a key ingredient in leadership. An important learning of working together is the realisation that a group ( be it a family unit or a play group of friends) can get more accomplished and in less time, rather than simply going it alone.
Parents and carers might design family group tasks so that children experience collaboration in both play and task activities.
The art of negotiation and compromising remains a skill which is highly regarded amongst corporate teams and one which can be encouraged from the earliest aged child. Through the process of working in teams, children need to learn the art of give and take, where being able to bend and compromise in some areas so that the task is still completed and everyone is still happy.
Planning and strategies form the two most important skills within leadership. Leaders have an intimate grasp on the overall picture or goal and are able to break tasks down into easily achievable groupings.
Parents and carers who design opportunities for children to undertake planning and strategising need to ensure appropriate amounts of support and time is given so that the children are able to accomplish their outcomes.
Planning a strategy is a great way to empower and build childrens self esteem and confidence as well as providing them with a clearer vision of what they are about to achieve.
Checklists are an easy way to introduce planning and organisational skills and with children who don’t have the literacy skills yet, these lists can be pictorial.
The power of persistence and determination provides children with strong foundation of personal pride. Problems and challenges need to be regarded as a fact of life and children need to be encouraged and supported in appropriate ways to deal with them through problem solving without becoming demoralised or frustrated. Simple planning and strategies to impliment into family life can include:
- planning for an outing/ picnic - checklists or food and items to take
- packing for a weekend or holiday
- having checklists and systems in place for weekly sporting or interest area activities the family / individuals are involved with.
- planning for meals
- planning for birthday party or similar - shopping, decorations, baking.
Not only does this give them ownership, but it also begins to instil a sense of responsibility and belonging to the family unit and to see the importance of strategies and planning.
Leadership for children is developed through thoughtful initiatives and the understanding that simply being passive and following the crowd can leave children open to all kinds of outside influences.
It is through games and activities which encourage their communication skills, team work and resilience which lay the foundations for children to explore and initiate their leaderships qualities.