The question of whether a leader is naturally born or made has long been debated, but there is science to back up that leadership can be learned. According to the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES), “Past research suggests that leadership is 30 percent genetic and 70 percent a result of lessons learned through life experiences.”
That means that whether or not a child is born with natural leadership ability, they still can and should be taught leadership skills. These skills are important because they affect a child’s confidence, communication, problem-solving, creativity, and social development.
Everything that we use, from our phones to our toothbrushes, was created by leaders. Without people being able to think creatively and do something completely against the grain, and against all odds, our society would not have all the technological advances that we now enjoy.
Leadership skills should be taught as soon as your child can talk. This doesn’t mean you need to put them in a three-piece suit and make them start their own tech company, it just means encouraging your child to be confident, creative, independent, and expressive.
Here are some ways that you can encourage your child to lead the pack instead of following the herd.
Model Leadership Behavior
Leading by example is the best way to teach your child leadership skills. You don’t need to be the CEO of a company to teach your child how to be a leader. Parenting is a form of leadership. If you model kindness, empathy, honesty, resilience, and effective communication techniques, your child will adopt those traits.
Encourage Critical Thinking
You can encourage your child to think critically by asking them open-ended questions. Encourage them to share their opinions about things they saw, heard, or read. Engage with them and ask them questions to show that you’re actively listening to them and respecting what they have to say.
Kids have a lot of insights and can understand a lot more than many adults give them credit for. By encouraging your child’s critical thinking skills, they will be able to use those skills in any situation, especially when they come across an idea or person that isn’t honest.
Let Your Kid Make Mistakes
Jeff Bezos once said, “If you want to be inventive, you have to be willing to fail.”
Making mistakes is the only way that humans learn and improve. If you don’t allow your child to make mistakes, they will not be able to develop important skills such as problem-solving, resilience, and adaptability. It is through mistakes and failures that children gain valuable experiences and learn valuable lessons.
Create Problem-Solving Situations
Having good problem-solving skills helps with a child’s logical reasoning, analytical thinking, decision-making, communication, and negotiation skills.
You can improve your child’s problem-solving skills through play. Try role-playing different scenarios and common conflicts by acting them out or using toys. You can act out how to resolve a conflict when one friend says something mean to another friend, or how to help a friend who lost their favorite toy.
Build and design challenges are also great problem-solving exercises that can spark your child’s creativity. Present different materials such as blocks or recycled materials and encourage your child to come up with creative things to build. They can make things like robots, cars, bridges, houses, or even aliens. PBS Kids has lots of great ideas for building challenges that range from easy to hard.
Boost Your Child’s Confidence
Mark Twain famously said, “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.” This funny quote might sound contradictory, but you need to be both self-aware and confident in order to be successful.
By encouraging your child to be independent early on and showing them how to help themselves and figure things out for themselves, your child will be more confident.
Encourage Your Child’s Interests
Multiple Grammy Wards winners, Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell owe their musical success to their parents encouraging their interests and stepping out of the way to let them experiment and express themselves fully.
In a podcast interview with Rich Roll, the musical duo’s mom, Maggie Baird talked about how Billie was always interested in making videos and how she just let her do her thing.
“From the earliest days, she wanted that camera in her hand, she wanted to see what was going on, she understood it. Then, she had her friends come over. She filmed everything. And I mean…I’ll say parenting tip…maybe if it’s a tip…let your kids have the bloody camera!” Maggie proclaimed.
You can encourage your child’s interests by giving them whatever tools and materials they need to pursue that interest and just getting out of the way and letting them explore and experiment. Don’t pressure them, don’t tell them how to use the tools, just let them be and see what happens.
If you want your child to be successful, confident, bold, and be the leader of the pack instead of blindly following the herd, follow these strategies and watch them thrive as they navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.