5 Leadership Skills Your Child Needs to Thrive4 min read

Without valuable leadership skills, teens entering adulthood lack skills that can help them thrive and be successful in a variety of settings, including college and work. The elementary and high school years are the best time for parents to provide kids with opportunities to learn and develop leadership skills. A child who begins his or her leadership development early may one day thrive in their career, lead in their church or local community, or become a world leader.

There are many settings where children can learn and practice leadership skills. Churches, clubs, team sports, and charitable organizations are among the other opportunities that exist.

If you’re a parent wondering what leadership skills are the most important for your child to learn, consider the following:

1) Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence, also known as EQ, is one of the biggest drivers of leadership success, according to Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. People have varying degrees of EQ. According to Bradberry, 90 percent of top performing leaders have high EQ. EQ is responsible for 58 percent of a leader’s job performance.

Children first learn EQ from their parents. EQ represents a person’s ability to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, and to use emotional information to guide their decisions and actions. Empathy, the ability to see and feel things from another person’s perspective, is an important aspect of EQ.

2) Humility

Humble people tend to make the most effective leaders. That’s the conclusion of research conducted by the University of Washington Foster School of Business. Humble people tend to be high performers in individual and team settings.

Don’t confuse humility with being a doormat. The University of Washington study defined humility as having an accurate view of oneself, modeling teachability, and showcasing followers’ strengths. Leaders who exaggerate their abilities, refuse to accept input and correction from others, and take credit for their team’s accomplishments aren’t as effective as humble leaders. Humble leaders are more effective than self-centered leaders at retaining valuable teammates motivating their teams to achieve goals.

Parents who practice humility are more effective in raising humble children.

3) Teamwork

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” That’s the conclusion of leadership expert Ken Blanchard, perhaps best known for his bestselling book The One Minute Manager. The greater the challenge a leader faces, the more he or she needs others to contribute their knowledge, skill and strength to a solution.

John Maxwell has spoken on leadership and teamwork to Fortune 500 companies, international governments, and sports teams. In his book The 17 Indisputable Laws Teamwork, Maxwell wrote, “For the person trying to do everything alone, the game really is over. If you want to do something big, you must link up with others. One is too small a number to achieve greatness.”

Among the best opportunities for children to learn the value of teamwork are group activities, such as working together on a project as a family, scouts, volunteer activities through church and other charities, and team sports.

4) Perseverance

Parents may become annoyed at their child’s repeated requests to do or get something they’ve asked for, after they’ve been told “No.” It’s good for parents to hold their ground. But, be careful not to break your child’s spirit. The initiative to keep going in the face of disappointment or opposition is a valuable leadership quality.

When my 13-year-old son’s radio-controlled car recently stopped working, on his own initiative he used Google to search for a solution. Hours later, he diagnosed the problem, and asked me to help him order an inexpensive replacement part to make the necessary repair. I praised him for taking time to do research and find an answer to his problem. As a parent, when you deny your child’s request, tell them to wait, or when they encounter a problem, praise positive coping behaviors. Sulking, whining or temper tantrums may grab your attention, but give most of your attention to acknowledging patient perseverance.

5) Taking Risks, Learning from Failure

When my son was 8-years-old, he played in a community t-ball league. At the end of the season every player received a trophy. That trophy is now in a garbage heap somewhere. The things people value most, are those they had to work for the hardest, especially those things they took great risks to attain.

Jack Canfield, author of the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul book series has said, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Over-protective parenting that keeps a child in a bubble of safety will assure that child an ordinary life. Success isn’t ordinary.

Children who are encouraged to take risks are more likely to discover and develop strengths and skills they didn’t know they were capable of. They’re also more likely to encounter failure. But, in taking risks and experiencing failure, kids will have opportunities to improve they wouldn’t have otherwise.

What leadership skills is your child learning? What other leadership skills are important for children to learn? Share with a comment below, or reach out to me directly with Facebook Messenger, the Contact Me form, or Voicemail.


A version of this post also appeared on LifeZette.com.

Jon Beaty

I'm a counselor, writer and believer in the power of God to help you thrive in your marriage and family. I live with my family, a small herd of Boer goats, and thousands of honeybees near Portland, Oregon.

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