Leadership - Nature or Nurture
I have spent many years researching “Leadership qualities” by attending programs, reading various authors, articles, studying models, having intense discussions with some people (especially my father) and finally consolidating them into a 12 point list. Though everyone might not agree with this list, I feel there would not be many who would completely disagree.
The qualities are listed below:
Honesty & Integrity
The question however is; are people born leaders? Or can Leadership be developed?
Many people say that we have certain qualities or personalities and no matter what we do, these qualities cannot be changed. This is the eternal debate between Nature vs Nurture.
The point though is that can we nurture a child to have a head start with some Leadership traits?
Can we Nurture a child to have:
• Passion for things that he does?
• Honesty & Integrity ingrained as a part of life?
• More optimism and courage to take things into their own hands and be the “Masters of their own fate”?
• A dogged and persevering approach to convincing and influencing people?
I believe that some of these traits might be natural; however, need to be developed and nurtured. If not done, then a child with potential might never fulfil his or her destiny.
Do we as parents let our children explore their passions, do we help them choose and chase what they desire? Or is it what “we” desire?
Do we demonstrate and inspire them by showing how passionate we are about things? Can they see the Passion for achievement, success and most importantly “Life”, in all that we do?
Or do they see someone working hard and toiling listlessly, not knowing what they are aiming for?
Do they see fun, excitement and enthusiasm in our eyes when we talk about our work or the drudgery, fatigue and stress?
Can they sense and understand what drives me as a person? Is it me “the parent”, “the spouse”, “the bread winner” or just “ME and My Passion for Life”?
I wonder ….. I really wonder….
Honesty & Integrity
Many of us would want our children to be honest and have integrity, yet do not want to take the effort to instil those qualities.
How many times have we seen parents make small false promises to their kids? I’ve heard parents say, “Let’s go home and I will give you a chocolate”, even though they have no intention of doing so.
Or something simpler where they will promise to take the child for a movie the next day, just so that they keep quiet now.
In fact I could go on and on…. I’m sure many of us could.
Now what happens when promises made to a child are left unfulfilled, what happens to his sense of trust and belief? How much is he driven to keep to his promises and commitments?
From experience I have seen my son tends to listen and accept when I say “When Daddy makes a promise, does he always fulfill it?” he doesn’t really have much to say, nor does he throw a tantrum when he is sure that what is promised WILL happen.
This teaches him the importance and necessity of sticking to his word and commitments.
The other day while riding on the bike with my son, he suddenly started saying “Come to your side, come to your side” at first I didn’t get what he was saying. On asking him I realised we had crossed slightly onto the other side of the road and I was on the dividing line. It seems he had learned in school about rules of the road and some do’s and don’ts. I immediately apologised to him and came back onto my side of the road.
Now in this case some parents might have justified what they were doing or even mocked what the teacher said or just ignored the child and continued to drive the way they wanted.
Any behaviour the child sees that clashes with what he knows to be right can cause him to question what truly is, ‘the right thing to do’? It then leads to a dilution of right and wrong in his mind and that further magnifies as he grows up.
What we need to ask ourselves is….. What value system are we nurturing and developing in our children? What values are we demonstrating? Are we strengthening their sense of what is right or diluting it?
Optimism and “Masters of their own fate”
When my son had just learnt to stand and walk…I saw him standing in front of a pretty high stool one day. I could see that he wanted to get on top, but wasn’t too sure. I remember saying to him, “you can climb and you will surely reach the top”. He looked at me and tried to tell me that he wanted me to put him on top. Now that was the easy option!
Instead I told him to climb and showed him where to put his first leg, next leg and pull himself up. With a little effort and a few slips and falls he managed to get up (I was there to save a big fall, the little ones I let happen).
On the top he looked very pleased with himself, but soon he wanted to get down. Getting down looked really scary to him and just then my wife walked in and told me to “Put him down this instant, he can fall and hurt himself.”
I believed that as he had learned to climb by himself, he would do it more and more often and maybe sometimes when there is no one there. Keeping that in mind it was necessary for him to learn how to get down on his own. That way he is less likely to hurt himself when we are not there. So I taught him how to get down and like any good kid, he immediately practised going up and down a few times. Much to the dislike of my wife.
Now what would some other parents have done?
• Stopped the child from climbing for fear of him hurting himself. Told him not climb as it is risky and he can get hurt.
• Picked the child up and placed him on the stool
• Then lifted the child down
In doing any of these behaviours repeatedly in different situations, how does it affect the mind-set of the child?
• Does he start doubting his capabilities?
• Is there a chance that he will grow up unwilling to take risks?
• Will he always be scared of falling and hurting himself?
• Could he always expect people to do things for him?
• What would happen to his Locus of Control?
How much do we as parents encourage our children to discuss, question and negotiate with us? I agree it is exhausting and tiring, yet if we do not what could the long term outcome be?
Have we seen people at work bend their heads and quietly accept whatever a person in authority says? No matter whether they agree or understand.
Where does this behaviour come from?
I believe it comes from the nurturing received at home and in school. It comes from how much the child is allowed to express himself and most importantly how we interact with him when there is a disagreement or a clash in views and wants.
A child always looks for a WIN in any discussion that he gets into, what happens if we do not give him that WIN and enforce our view instead.
A child used to a LOSE-WIN or WIN-LOSE during his childhood grows up expecting or behaving in the same manner when he grows up. This is better explained in “Transactiona l Analysis”.
• work towards WIN-WIN negotiations with our kids
• treat our kids as equals
• value and respect their views, needs and desires
• discuss, debate and be willing to negotiate with them today so that they have the skills and the mind-set to be able to do it tomorrow
Do we introspect enough about our behaviours and actions with our kids and how they will influence or impact the kid in his or her journey as an adult?