Every child has the potential to be a leader. Some may have more traits associated with leadership, but any child's leadership ability, at whatever level, can be groomed and nurtured.
Here are some simple things parents (and grandparents, teachers, coaches, aunts, uncles, and neighbors) can do to help develop children's potential for leadership:
1. Be the kind of leader you want them to become. As with most things, the best lesson is your example. One great way to let children see your leadership in action is to volunteer for community work together. Show them what it means to be passionate about community and others, and let them experience how it feels to make an impact on another person's life.
2. Allow them to pave their own path. Let your children create their own path and purpose without interference. Allow them to be their unique individual selves. Support them and nurture them; shine the light on their passions and strengths and help them become leaders of their own lives.
3. Show them ways to succeed. Set up goals and small projects they can be successful at. They'll gain valuable self-esteem and confidence by mastering new skills as they get the job done.
4. Generate a circle of trailblazers. Make sure your children know people who are blazing trails and are achieving things in the world, making an impact and making a difference. Allow them to learn from them firsthand what it takes to be a leader and to be successful.
5. Seek to understand them so they can learn to understand others. Teach your kids the importance of listening to yourself and to others. One of the most important qualities of a leader is the skill of listening, and the earlier it's learned the more intuitive it becomes.
6. Teach them to be winners. It's hard to watch your child start something and then want to quit. Unless the situation is truly untenable, use the opportunity to teach them perseverance and tenacity. If the issue is that they aren't doing as well as they'd like, remind them that even Michael Jordan didn't make the first team he tried out for.
7. Help them learn to be great communicators. Communication is the cornerstone of both leadership and relationships. Teach your children to say what they mean and mean what they say. Nurture their communication skills and you give them the ability to build relationships and inspire others.
8. Emphasize the importance of teamwork. Teamwork helps children learn to get along with others, to work and cooperate across differences. Learning to work effectively in a team is one of the most important skills you can impart.
9. Show the importance of character. Out of all the lessons you can teach a child, I believe the most important is the importance of character. A child who can learn the foundation of trust, honesty, respect and integrity will be ready for a lifetime of successful leadership, partnerships and relationships.
10. Encourage an open mind and heart. Give children experiences that teach them about diversity and inclusion. Show them the value of multiple perspectives and the importance of equality. Keep your own mind and heart open and the odds are good that your children will follow suit.