Anytime one of my three children gets in trouble at school, my first question to them is always, “Were you being a leader or a follower today?”

My oldest and only daughter always had an issue with talking in class. Her excuse is always that others were talking to her. I explain she needs to be the leader, and tell the others that they need to wait until class is over to continue the conversation. I don’t know that it ever actually happens, but I try to give her guidance.

When it comes to sports, I have also tried to get my daughter to be more of a vocal leader on her teams. Unfortunately, it’s just not in her nature to speak out. In some ways, she is a great leader, and doesn’t even know it. She shows up each day, works hard, and quietly puts in the work. She leads by example for anyone who is paying attention.

My middle child grew up being a follower. In elementary and middle school when kids “dared him” to do anything, he was up for the challenge. I received a call his first week of junior high school because he walked down the hallway flipping off every camera in the school. I later found out this was done as one such “dare.”

Positive Reinforcement Tip: Slip one of these notes in their lunch box with a handwritten message on the back telling them why you're proud (amazon.com)

In grade school it was the same thing. We had many conversations about how to be a leader, and less of a follower at school over the years. Once he hit high school something kind of clicked, or maybe he just matured a little, but he has been so much better.

I will say my 8-year-old paid a lot of attention to all those conversations over the years. I have had very few issues with him in school, and get many compliments on his behavior, and how he likes to try to be helpful. It will be interesting to see how he develops his leadership abilities in the future.

I have learned there are many ways of showing leadership, and it's important to point out when your child demonstrates such acts, as a way of reinforcing positive behavior you hope to see more often.

3 Tips for Instilling Leadership Skills in Your Child

  1. Ask questions about leadership, e.g. “Who is someone you admire? Who is someone you would be willing to follow? Why? What makes someone a good leader?”
  2. In relation to real life situations (at school, in the community, etc.), ask them, “What would you do if you were in charge? What do you think others (e.g. teachers, law enforcement, neighbors, friends) should do?
  3. When someone makes an unwise or questionable decision or comment ask, “What do you think will happen to that person? What if more people were like him or her, would the world be a better or worse place? What should the consequences be and/or what kind of things do you think will happen as a result of that comment or decision?”

The goal of asking questions is to help your child reason and mature with cause and effect thinking. Try your best not to tell them what you think should happen. Focus instead on helping them develop reasoning skills.


For more great insights and tips be sure to subscribe to our Good Dads Podcast, and check out this Developing Leadership Skills podcast where two dads of toddlers join us in the studio to uncover how things they're doing everyday are helping build leadership skills in their young children.
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About Author

Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa, MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at herbie05@yahoo.com

You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.thecodylife.weebly.com