Leadership Isn’t Easy

leadershipThe other night while driving home with my boys we got into a great discussion on what it takes to be a leader.   As a parent you want to constantly tell your kids that anything is possible as long as you work hard for it and believe in yourself.  Unfortunately that just isn’t the truth.  I found myself reigning in the cheerleader side of me in as we discussed what it means to become a leader.  Don’t misunderstand me I am not implying that our kids can’t be leaders… I think all kids should have the opportunities for leadership.  They just may not get the opportunities they want.  That’s just life.

The conversation started when my youngest, who is fascinated by all things army, bemoaned the fact that he doesn’t get picked to be “The General” when he and his friends get together and play army.  He felt that it was unfair that the group always picks one of the older kids to be their leader.  I let him know that his frustration was completely valid and that it does seem to be a bit unfair.  Then I asked him what their process for picking the general is.  Which apparently is akin to a spur of the moment show of hands vote.  So we talked about how, if people are going to vote, he needs to find ways to convince the group to vote for him.  That just wanting to be the leader won’t get more votes.  So he suggested that he could make others in charge of things if they voted for him.  We agreed that it was a good strategy but he couldn’t give everyone a leadership job otherwise their would be no one to lead.

He shrugged and asked: “So how do I do it Dad?”

I told him that there wasn’t an exact blueprint.  That ultimately it would take time and effort on his part.  He would have to pay attention to what the kids wanted to do as they played army.  He’d have to pay attention to what made it more fun and what made it less fun.  He’d have to think about how he could influence their play to cause it to be more fun so that the kids would notice that it was more fun to have him around. We talked about how he had to take the time to build relationships with the kids so that they trusted him and valued him as a friend. Finally I told him that  he needed to keep throwing his hat in the ring when they did vote for “The General”.

“That doesn’t mean I’ll get picked”

…And there was the truth.  Democracy doesn’t mean you’ll get picked, even if you do all the other steps right.  People still get to choose and they may not choose what you want them to.  I asked him what he thought the other kids would think about him if he was doing all those things.  He thought about it and said that they probably would think that he knew a lot about how to play army.  I asked him if he thought they might want him to make suggestions on how they should play, and he figured that they would (then he quickly pointed out that they do that already).  So I asked if he thought he was kind of a leader already even if he wasn’t “The General” he shrugged his shoulders again and said that he guessed so.  Then after a moment of looking out the window said “I think I am still going to try and get people to choose me as the general.”  I told him that he should definitely keep trying!

2 comments ↓

# 1 - by Sterling on February 28th, 2014 at 5:16 pm

I like that your teaching your kid to reach for the stars and not to give up, but most of all that you’re teaching him to be realistic. I wonder if the you-can-do-anything-you-put-your mind-to culture we’ve created actually has a negative impact for those who take it literally. If they don’t make it to the NBA or become a millionaire or they think there’s something wrong with them.

# 2 - by Ryan on March 4th, 2014 at 9:41 am

This post reminds me of the Dr.Seuss story “Oh the places you’ll go.” We all have great potential but that doesn’t mean we will live up to it or that things will always go our way. I liked how you pointed our that the other kids look to him for suggestions on how to play. A change in perspective can make all the difference. Once you see that you already make a difference you may find that the title does not mean as much. On the other hand it is nice to have the title sometimes to feel validated by others.