Dr Richard C Woolfson
There are many different views about leadership and what makes a good chief. Some people say that a good leader must have charisma, while others say that there is no set formula. While both these perspectives have an element of truth in them, there are key qualities that are found in most effective leaders. Having these won’t guarantee that your child will turn out to be a good one, but they will help him stand out from the rest of the crowd.
Leaders emerge when a group of individuals strive towards a common goal. At your child’s age, that aim might be to complete a puzzle or build a structure as a group or competitive team. Encourage your child to have ambitions and to be prepared to strive towards these aims until they are achieved – not to mention sharing these with some of his peers. This creates a social context from which a leader typically emerges.
It’s also important that your child has excellent communication skills. Develop his ability to express his feelings in a way that others understand. His peers won’t want to work with him if he sulks in a corner because he can’t get things done his way.
Likewise, he needs to be good at listening to others. Encourage him to make eye contact with his friends when they talk to him, to respond appropriately and to use body language to demonstrate that he is listening (for instance, by nodding his head to show that he is in agreement with what they say).
Teams function best when the leader respects every member. This means valuing the contributions others make, making an individual contribution that helps the team goal, and utilising the skills of the other team members in a positive way.
Practise this with your child, as he may not find these skills easy to acquire. A good leader is able to encourage others to give their 100 per cent effort, and more. The team’s desire to please him is so strong that they will try harder with his encouragement than they would if they were working alone.
Never say die
In any team activity, there often comes a point where interest in the core task wanes, when all the children run out of steam. A true leader shines through by continuing to be enthusiastic, even when the others begin to lose interest.
Persistence is another leadership technique. You can nurture your child’s leadership ability by persuading him to persist with a challenge, even when the task seems to be totally beyond his capabilities.
A child who gives up easily will rarely inspire others to follow him. In contrast, a child who shows determination in the face of a very difficult challenge acts as a good role model for his friends, and they are more likely to follow him, his ideas and the solutions he presents.
Leaders are also skilful at finding answers to problems that others seem to find insurmountable. It’s about having the creative ability to think outside the box, and to see possibilities when others see only obstacles. Teach your child to look at challenges from different angles and to be prepared to test out different solutions.
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