Leadership- Is Your Child Born With It or Can You Nurture It?

leadershipA new study (you can read it here… ) shows that leaders are largely developed or made, rather than born.  I remember being encouraged to lead by my parents growing up.  At age 12, I was the “head boy” at our elementary school, in charge of all my classmates who were in charge of keeping order on the school grounds for the rest of the children.  This was a British system that was very effective.

That initial leadership role resulted, I guess, from the fact that I was outgoing, confident and respected by my peers and liked by the staff (teachers and principle). I was also a good student and eager to please.  That year I also used my leadership to challenge the status quo and the tradition of raising the Rhodesian flag on Independence Day.  You see, Independence Day was the day celebrated back then by the white community for the day Rhodesia declared independence from Britain. This was 1969, before the black native Africans of Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) had won their independence and freedom. You see, most of my friends were Shona speaking Africans and “we” didn’t feel we had any real freedom or “independence”.  In effect, as the head boy I would be raising the flag for an “illegal white government”.

I refused to raise the flag, a first to my knowledge that a head boy would refuse to do this.  I managed to lead a few other upper classmates, to refuse to participate in this ceremony.  The ceremony went on without a hitch; another classmate raised the flag while a few of us protesters were monitored in a back classroom so we wouldn’t cause any trouble.  My influence was minimal, the effects of this tiny little protest may have seemed inconsequential, yet to me they were life-changing.  I had learned that one does not have to support the status quo when it is wrong.

This article makes it clear that we parents can teach our children to be leaders, or even ourselves for that matter.  It’s a journey, and a process. At the university, a 15 week class showed college students in the leadership course reported significant gains in self-efficacy, confidence in their ability to lead, and motivation to lead.

Leadership is described as a three legged stool, being ready, willing, and able.  Leadership is not done in isolation.  We need others and we either lead in a teamwork fashion that is engaging or perhaps less effectively in an authoritative style.

I’m excited to think that any one of us can rise up as a leader and have a positive impact on the world.  Of course we all know of countless examples of leaders who were either ineffective, self serving, or just downright evil, or power hungry.  I’m attracted to the servant leader modeled by so many of the greats over time, from Jesus, to Gandhi, Mandela, JFK ,and Martin Luther King, to name a few.



Dr. Paul


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