I was recently asked what parents should do to encourage leadership skills. Coming from a family of leaders I think back to see which text book answers apply. What I found is that it is rare to find a tip that is not equally good for a “leader” and a “follower,” or “chiefs” and “Indians” like we used to say. I would like to remind my audience that both play an important role in life situations. Society would dictate that leaders are superior. But since I know that every good team needs different strengths I suggest that confidence plays a stronger part.

Society has a way of stratifying and labeling kids. It can come with a negative connotation. Sometimes they change their appearance, friends, or social activities and successfully alter how they are seen, but more often than not they get stuck. The jock, the nerd, the preppy…

I go back to the question of how to build a leader. Again the idea of building confidence resonates with me. The parent who originally asked the question wasn’t necessarily asking because she wanted her daughter to run for student counsel. The conversation that preceded the question was about friends and peer pressure. There was an element of fear that she wouldn’t be there to help her daughter make the right choices. Leaders make wrong choices every day. Simply being a strong leader won’t be the deciding factor as to which path a child will take. A person with a strong set of values and confidence, leaders and followers alike, have my vote.

So, how do you build confidence in a child? Self-worth is the corner stone in your child’s existence. It begins when they are infants. As they grow older they gain independence and responsibility. The more they get, the more confidence they build. Good communication, positive reinforcement and a positive role model will show what is expected of them. One of my favorite quotes is by Hain Ginott. He says “If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others!” What a confidence boost! 

Whether your child is a leader or a follower, understand the importance of their role. Society can’t complete tasks without both of them! If your child wants some leadership training, ask why. Perhaps it is to become the next President of Student Council. But if it is to build their self-esteem then you are barking up the wrong tree!