When I began coaching tee ball several years ago I wanted to teach the kids about more than just baseball. I wanted to help build strong, courageous and caring kids. After a few practices, I found the key to this: leadership. Regardless of age or gender, everyone is a leader in one way or another. The question is not, “do you want to be leader?” it’s actually, “how can you be a great leader?” There is a real need to teach our kids, starting at a young age, about leadership. I was inspired to use my position as a coach to accomplish this.
For me leadership is simple; we lead by serving others. It is through genuine concern for the wellbeing and success of others that we lay the foundation of leadership. Leaders are followed by people that are inspired and motivated to a common goal or purpose because it appeals to and benefits them personally. I was concerned that this concept would be difficult to teach to young kids, so I did what any educated person with a question does; I Googled it! There were millions of “relevant” results. Each time I clicked on a link I received the same advice, “put your child on a sports team.” Well, I already have a team of kids, so now what do I do? Is leadership learned through osmosis? I agree with the strategy of having your child join a sports team, but what I needed were a few viable tactics to help kids understand leadership.
Leading by example is essential for coaches and any other adults influencing kids. However, it’s a stretch to think that kids will surmise the leadership characteristic being displayed by their coach and effectively deploy it at the appropriate time. After all, if you’re coaching baseball you don’t coach by having your team only watch you play. Below are four basic leadership characteristics that every kid should know.
- Everyone is a leader. We all influence others in some way.
- Listening (not talking) is one of the most important aspects of leadership. You can’t lead someone until you know where they were going before you showed up.
- Always use positive and helpful words. If you don’t have something nice to say, take a minute to think of something nice to say.
- Be respectful to everyone. Respect starts in the mirror. Respect yourself and believe that you have value to share with others.
Kids love to have fun and are extremely inquisitive. Take some time to think about these simple leadership characteristics and come up with fun ways to teach them to kids. There is no such thing as too corny or too silly when it comes to teaching and having fun with kids. If you are intentional about teaching kids and listen to their responses with joy and respect, I bet they will learn a few things that will last a lifetime. The kids aren’t the only ones who win; I have learned more about leadership by teaching it to kids than I could have ever imagined.