It is a learned ability to influence the attitudes and behavior of others. Conventional wisdom says leaders are born, but I don’t believe that’s true. From what I’ve seen, positive, life-changing leadership is an acquired trait, learned from interaction with others who know how to lead and lead well. Leadership is not an innate, mystical gift. It is a learned ability to influence the attitudes and behavior of others. As such, we can all learn, and then teach our kids and others, how to understand and apply the principles of successful leadership.
There are lots of leadership models. However, I think one model is more effective than others. I once spoke with the head of a Fortune 500 company who noted that he experienced an awakening in how he interacted with his employees. Here’s what he said.
The Daily Impact of Leadership
“I had long known that I could influence whether or not my employees had a good day; it was fairly obvious that I held sway over that, for better or worse. But one day, as I drove home, trying to fight off a dark cloud from a tough day’s work and trying not to let it affect my family when I walked through the front door, I realized that many, if not all, of my direct reports were experiencing the same thing. If they weren’t able to compartmentalize their frustration, anger, and irritation, then they were going to take those toxic feelings into their homes. I don’t simply have an impact on my direct reports—there is an exponential effect on those around them as well, based in no small part on their interactions with me.”
A Powerful Model of Leadership
Understanding the profound effect of our leadership is often the first step toward adopting a style of leadership that has proven itself effective over many generations—a style I’m calling mentor leadership. It isn’t so much the creation of a new kind of leadership as it is a recognition and exploration of a model I’ve learned and tried to practice throughout my life.
Though true mentorship is intentional, we need to understand that people (especially our kids) are watching us and learning from us, whether we’re aware of it or not. The leadership we model can lead to positive or negative results. We’ve all seen leaders who have unintentionally fostered destructive, dysfunctional, or damaging behaviors. Parents who have heard their children echo harsh words to a pet, doll, or sibling know what I mean.
The Standards of Leadership
Success for a mentor leader is measured by different standards than those commonly accepted in our society. Mentor leadership is all about shaping, nurturing, empowering, and growing. It’s all about relationships, integrity, and perpetual learning. Success is measured in changed lives, strong character, and eternal values rather than in material gain, temporal achievement, or status. Ultimately, mentor leadership is just as successful in achieving the standards of accomplishment in our society. But unlike other types of leadership, it is primarily concerned with building and adding value to the lives of people in the process.
Sound off: What do you try to model to your kids as a leader?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think makes a good leader?”