Have you ever heard someone say he or she was born a leader? I definitely have! In fact, when my daughter was all of maybe 4 years old, I was told that very thing by her preschool teacher one day when I arrived to pick her up. As I walked into the classroom my daughter was finishing a line up of her fellow classmates for a pretend, but very real to my daughter, band performance. I remember her teacher smiling as she shared with me how Natalie, my daughter, had been assigning “instruments” to her classmates and them lining them up on specific points all over what I remember as this huge play rug with all sorts of shapes and numbers on it. As her teacher told me the account of my daughter, I recall beaming. “Look at my little leader!” I remember thinking. It was clear to me in that moment that my daughter clearly had a gift for influencing others.
My daughter is now 17, nearly 18, and heading off to start her college career in less than a week. As I reminisce on moments like this as well as all the leadership positions she held through junior high and also high school, I’m thankful. I’m thankful that day when her teacher told me she was a born leader, I listened and started cultivating that gift of influence God gave her. My wife and I committed also to developing her character so that as she matured her gift of influence would not become something negative but instead something that truly supported the growth and well being of others, positive leadership. We were, and still are, insistent on learning to respect others starting first with good old-fashioned manners like “please” and “thank you”. We taught the value of integrity. In our house integrity is the way you act and the choices you make when no one is around to see any of it. To this day, I have full confidence that Natalie will say and do as she says she will whether her mom and I are around or not. We also taught her the value of service as well as giving to others. She didn’t like giving at first. In fact she did not want anything to do with it. So, although we look forward still to the day when she starts giving financially, we asked her how she would like to give in other ways. Her response of volunteering started a joy for serving in our church’s children’s ministry for most of her junior high years and all of high school. Other traits like honesty, listening intently when others are speaking, empathy and even entrepreneurship all also have their stories as well as trials and tribulations. But we still provided the space for her to learn them.
I share all this one as a very proud dad but also to communicate how essential it is for any of us who aspire to lead others to be actionable in developing ourselves for doing so. Leadership is NOT easy! It is so much more than being in a position to tell someone what to do. In fact, that is not leadership at all. That is simply influence because of position or status. True leadership, the kind that will cause others to WANT to follow a path laid out takes daily practice and attention. For me personally, I read, listen to podcasts and attend seminars. I’m even part of a business mastermind group so that I can surround myself with leaders at all levels.
Thank you for taking a road down memory lane with me.