Leading and parenting - Be the parent who improves your child's leadership skills

Toastmaster speech #1(Understanding Your Leadership Style)

Leading and Parenting / Leadership or Parenthood

While I was contemplating whether to use nouns (passive) or verbs (active) in the title of my speech, I came across a quote from Michelle Obama, who said in one of her interviews that "Parenting is a verb." What she means by this is that parenting is a constant action, movement, motion, battle, dilemma, discussion, inner monologue. It is trying to be a role model for somebody who may be wiser than you. It is trying to be a moral compass for somebody who may have been born with a stronger ethical code than you. It is trying to be stronger than your child, when all you want is to lean on them because you see they are better, smarter and more creative than you.

But although it may sound as a difficult job, it is probably one of the most rewarding ones, too. It gives one the opportunity to help develop skills and competences that may carry them on the way to becoming a leader. Our society does not usually support raising leaders. Children with leadership skills are seen as somewhat aggressive, pushy, bossy, maybe even labelled as bullies, difficult to handle, overwhelming. Because of this the parent's responsibility is even bigger.

If you suspect you might have a child who is one day going to become a leader, you may want to start their education right now. The world needs better, more empathetic and more caring leaders. What then are those characteristics in parents that help their children develop emotional intelligence and become better leaders?

1. Consistency

Being consistent for many people simply means setting the rules and abiding by them. I believe it has more to do with being an authority for your children not by means of power, but by building trust. In other words, when you promise something, make it happen, deliver on your promise and watch the bond between you and your child get stronger via it.

2. Empathy

Empathy is closely connected to the third one. It is not only showing compassion for the other person, in this case your child, and trying to imagine yourself in their shoes. It also refers to talking about social issues, such as for example homelessness. A joint walk can be a perfect introduction to a difficult topic like this - don't look the other way, don't pretend they are not there, but start a conversation about them. Ask your children if they know who these people are, why they may be on the streets, and you may even elicit some solutions from your children as to what could help these people find a job and become part of the society again.

3. Good listening skills

Good listening skills cannot be practiced by multitasking at the same time. It is actually the opposite - dropping everything and listening to what your child has to say. Although many people are wary of doing this as they believe it may cause their children to be spoilt and demanding, I actually think it has the opposite effect. Paying attention and tending to your child's needs will make them do the same for others, which is an exceptional trait in leaders.

Incorporating these three core skills can therefore help you build a solid parenting strategy and indirectly help your children build a strong leadership strategy when they develop their leadership skills and become leaders.

These three and leading by example in these three will raise children who:

  • are conscious and conscientious
  • take care of themselves and others
  • defend and lobby for their interests
  • think both creatively and critically
  • argue using rational arguments and not empty commonplace phrases
  • show vulnerability in showing compassion for others

It is leaders like this that can build a better future, that can be resilient and that can stay present and focused even in times like covid and other crises. But it is important that we don't only think of high ranking officials, army officials, statesmen, politicians, CEOs, etc. when we think of leaders, but we should think of anybody and everybody who has an idea or a vision and is brave enough to embark on that idea or vision, share it with others and find supporters for it. It can be the local librarian organising weekly storytelling events or the local farmer organising monthly markets or even the twenty something guy at the end of the street who turns out to be eager to organise a residential meeting only because he would like to plant trees in the street.

First of all, we need to accept our child’s cognitive and behavioural setup - we need to recognise if they are leader material or not. If they are, we should provide them with as many situations as possible where they can try themselves out in order for them to see if they want to embark on this path or not (not everybody who is born to be a leader wants to be one).

If they are not leader material, we should not push them nor make them feel less but we can gently encourage them to still sometimes break out of their comfort zones only to find that it is not such a scary role and that it is a great self-discovery method.

Secondly, it is vital to find experienced educators for our children, ones who will accept them unconditionally (note that I didn’t say love ;)!) and try to strengthen their advantages and minimise their disadvantages. We should be able to communicate as much as possible with them and request feedback on our child’s progress - not because our child needs any plus “development” of any kind, but because being aware of our child’s interests, group dynamic behaviour and learning methods is crucial when we want to help them develop their wellbeing.

Thirdly, it is vital we do not cure our own insecurities or regrets with our children (C.G. Jung — 'Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.'). This is probably the most difficult task of all, because the temptation is high. Sometimes parents feel a child should do something they were never able to only because “it comes so easy to her”. Other times they feel a child should fulfill their dreams because “we have invested so much time, energy and money so far it would a shame not to”. These are all sideways and cross-generational burden, which we need to let go of the minute we detect it in ourselves.

All in all, knowing your child strengths and weaknesses can help you follow and support on their path better. If their talents can be useful in developing leadership skills, use them! The world needs better leaders to be able to form healthier communities, which are the building block of strong socities.