LEADERSHIP CANNOT BE TAUGHT.


Leadership cannot be taught, it has to be encouraged. That is my view of the world and nothing I have seen in my very short lifetime has shown me otherwise. The problem of leadership in American culture is a complex challenge. We have bought into the idea that leaders are created in business school with ever more specialized management degrees. This philosophy could not be further from the truth. Leadership is about getting those around you to perform above their own expectations and to feel included and empowered. Leaders are great managers, unfortunately great managers are not necessarily great leaders. Business school can turn poor managers into great managers, but cannot create leaders.

The education that creates leaders starts in early childhood. It starts in the home at play. Creating leaders is about allowing your toddler to make decisions. It is about allowing her to be her own change agent. It is about explaining why. It is about explaining your yes and no answers equally. It is about recognizing that our toddlers learn from us. They are sponges and their best and worst habits are learned long before they can explain their decisions. Early training prevents later correction.

As the father of the two smartest daughters in the world I can attest to the strength of character of toddlers. My girls are now 3 and 5 and it is clear that they have very different personalities. In spite of their differences they both are confident and insist on making their own choices. They don’t readily follow the crowd. They, like little girls everywhere have been infected with the princess bug, but I smile when they choose the “boy” toys or face paint patterns. I am happy that they have been allowed to make their own choices and will not follow the other girls to the dolls but more often than not want both the doll and the truck. Having a community that supports our  girls is vital for the development of future female leaders.

For me, growing up around equally strong men and women instilled a powerful sense of place and robust confidence. This is what I want for my daughters and all our daughters. However, there is a noticeable lack of strong female leadership in our country. I would consider myself a feminist and believe that my girls are capable of doing and achieving anything they desire. Because there are physical limitation does not mean that she is not capable. The question is, are we willing to design and improve so she can express her full potential? This is the key question that needs answering. I know what my answer to that is. My daughters will never be told by me that they cannot. No one in my presence will go unchallenged if they suggest that my daughters cannot. I will lovingly push and challenge them, because they are just as capable as their male peers. It is time for us to use technology to level the playing field and allow all who would to be challenged by all this worlds has to offer.

GIVE THEM THE CASH NOT THE TOY.


I have a difficult relationship with children’s toys. My difficulty maybe born from the fact that I did not get many toys as a child. At least I do not remember getting many. What I do remember is making “stuff”. I was never really good at making “stuff” but it was fun. I never felt deprived, I just did not know any other way. I do remember once asking for a plastic pickup truck. I received it and promptly took it apart. I am sure I got more than that, but I do not remember any others. What I remember to this day is the “stuff” I tried to make and the “stuff” I succeeded in making. The experience was my reward.

How to replicate that experience with my two daughters is going to be a challenge. They already have more toys that I had in my entire childhood and they continue to receive more. I hate toys not just because I consider them a waste of hard-earned resources, but because most toys are disposable objects of materialism. Most toys teach our kids to be comfortable spending money on goods that are disposable in content and quality.

The peer pressure to give our kids toys is immense and unrelenting. It is ever-present and both subtle and obnoxious. The subtle pressure is suggesting to us that not allowing our kids toys will make them stand out as different, that it will harm their self-image. This suggestion is without evidence and contrary to the facts. The challenge to all parents is to prepare our children for the full breath of experience that is adult life. How we execute that charge will determine our children’s chance of success in life.

How do we face down the pressure and give our children that running start? I would suggest that we embrace the toy giving culture. It may seem counter to what I have said so far but we can always use popular culture to our advantage if we look carefully for the diamonds in the rough. I suggest that we give toys sparingly and only items that are educational and multi-dimensional. All toys should meet these criteria; teach scientific facts, have varied uses and be challenging and reuseable.

Toys should be special treats. They should be significant and memorable. One or two memorable toys per year should complement a year filled with memorable experiences.

Go make some memories while finding those extraordinary toys.