I was picking up my 12-year-old for school one day and one of her teachers came over to the car to tell me to make sure I ask my daughter about his conversation with her earlier that day. Now, my daughter has always been a good student and never get in trouble, so I was immediately curious as to what he had to discuss with her. Had her graders started slipping? Had she been socializing when she was supposed to be working? What was so serious that warranted a talk with the teacher?
As I pulled off, I looked over at my daughter and asked what happened. Being the tween that she is, her answer was the nonchalant, “Nothing”. “Nothing?”, I questioned. He would not have come to the car and told me to ask her what it was if it was nothing. She then, again nonchalantly, she began telling me that her teacher told her that all the teachers were very impressed with her and that they saw her being a real leader in the school as she moved toward her 8th grade year.
My proud momma smile hit my face. I knew my mini me was a born leader but now her teachers were recognizing it as well.
As few weeks later, my mini me came home and informed me that she had been asked to be one of the student speakers at the 8th grade “moving on” ceremony. Again, pride came over me like a waterfall.
For years people have talked about whether people are born leaders. I certainly believe there are certain characteristics people possess that they are genetically pre-disposed to, but I also know that there are certain skills that if you don’t develop, you will operate below your full potential.
Having daughters, I am very conscious about what type of young ladies they are becoming and how I can help them develop skills now that will help them be successful when they are older.
Here are a few tips that I’ve come to know can help develop our daughters into leaders:
1.Model good leadership: It may seem obvious, but it is not what you tell them but what they see. If you are talking to your daughters about being a good leader but they are not seeing you show up as a leader, then they are learning not to be a leader. Make sure you are showing your girls good leadership.
My daughters get plenty of opportunities to see me in a leadership role. They routinely accompany me to neighborhood meetings or community functions. They see me interacting with my clients and constituents. They see how I listen to people, help explore solutions and when necessary they see how stand up for what I believe in but express my dissent in a respectful manner.
2. Talk to them about leadership, why leadership is important and point out good examples: Having a title does not make a good leader and it is important they know the difference. I know lots of people with important titles and are horrible leaders. Having conversations about what good leadership is and specifically the traits that make people good leaders, like respecting differing opinions and the ability to listen to others, will help your children see themselves as a leader.
My girls and I talk about leadership all the time. We talk about why some people who may be in leadership positions are not good leaders (like the current occupant of The White House) and what makes others, like the amazing men and women who work in the community everyday without titles, compensation or recognition, real leaders.
3. Give them opportunities to be a good leader: Allowing them to be a leader early helps them develop their own leadership style at a young age. Get them involved in community organization or groups. Encourage them to volunteer. All of these will help them develop as a leader and recognize their own leadership style.
Whenever I am working on something and there is an opportunity for my girls to be involved and take a leadership role, I encourage them to be. For example, every year the city hosts a walk during domestic violence awareness month. Last year, my 12-year-old wanted to get some community service hours for school, so I told her she could volunteer. While volunteering, she saw we needed someone to coordinate a supply drive for our local shelter. My daughter took on this task and not only did she get her classmates involved in the supply drive, but she also presented the project at a city council meeting.
4. Let them interact with women leaders in the community – seeing more women in leadership roles and exhibiting leadership characteristics will let them know women in leadership is not just possible but it is achievable for them. Point out examples of great women leaders in the news and community – this gives them the opportunity to not just hear the word leadership or think leadership is about titles but to see leadership in action and be able to identify it.
My girls have so many strong women leaders as role models. In addition to having me around, I take them to events where women are prominently in leadership roles. They see women in elected office, running their own businesses and leading organizations. I make a point to have them see these women and know that they are leaders to.
It is so important that we show our girls that they are leaders. We need to nurture their leadership potential and invest in opportunities for them to develop their skills.
What additional tips would you provide for building leadership skills in girls? Please share your comments below. Thanks.