Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Not everyone is a born leader, most are cradled in their parent's lap till they can spread their wings and soar. Just as a plant needs care and shine, sometimes a supportive string to help it grow upright, so is with children. Soon they are big enough and can take care of themselves. What fruits they bear, how deep their roots can go or how far their branches reach out depends on largely on the planter and early care, as the saint poet Kabir said, "boya ped babool ka toh aam kaha se hoye"(If you sow a thorny acacia, you shouldn't expect it to bear you sweat mangoes). Most child psychologists agree, the structural development of the brain and the neurobiological pathways that determine a child's functional development is based on experiences during early childhood affect. Positive experiences support children's cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development, and conversely, adverse experiences can hinder it.
Most exemplary leaders learn and develop leadership skills on the go. The word ‘skill’ is very important here, as it signifies something that can be attained, improved, and constantly tuned in. However, this learning and tuning cannot be an overnight process. It requires academic input, exposure to different experiences, and mentoring. This is where school education plays a pivotal role. It instills confidence in decision making, communication skills and a sense of responsibility, which goes on to make good leaders out of ordinary students.
Leadership is the art of motivating, influencing and directing a group of people to work together and achieve the goals of a team. The schools and educational institutes today are designing interactive curriculum which comprises of management books, lengthy courses with video tutorials and several other gamut of tools – we pretty much have every resource that teaches students how to become better leaders. However, we often miss a fundamental area which can teach leadership skills to individuals as early as children in pre-schools. Yes, that’s right – I am talking about education.
It is the early years of a child which form a perfect platform for them to hone their leadership skills. A child is fragile and unaware of most of the things, they will adapt to anything and everything they are taught by their parents or their teacher. Guiding the mental and behavioural habits in the right direction helps in shaping up the qualities required to be a great leader even at a very young age .
The current curriculum, with a few additional efforts, can also help in transforming children into leaders with a sharp bent of mind and astute understanding of their surroundings. Here are a few ways in which schools and curriculum programs can inculcate these skills among children to help them enhance their decision-making and leadership qualities for the future, though not everyone becomes a leader, these skills will definitely help them to be better individuals:
The best of leaders always recognise and control their own emotions. They understand how their actions affect the people around them. Leadership positions demand authority, but they also call for humility. It is essential to teach students self-awareness and self-motivation skills. Children should be taught to take onus of their mistakes and not blame others in case something goes wrong. They should be put through a lot of teamwork and collaboration activities, as they teach students how to feel responsible for their contribution to the team effort.
This starts with preparing children for the fact of life that change is inevitable and it is always needed. It can be inducted with examples as small as making new friends as we go to new places and leaving behind old ones, opting more mature board games and toys as they grow up etc. Help them identify what's causing the change, prepare them to handle it in an open and candid manner. Low resistance to change often leads to failure, therefore they should continue working on their task even if the situation around them is changing. Today, many children are confined to their homes due to SARS-CoV-2, parents find it hard to multi task and adapt to the new realities but most children with little encouragement and support are adapting. However, parents do need to monitor how this prolonged lockdown can affect their children’s mental and physical health, by being positive, engaging children in mental and physical activities, can help parent’s and children’s well-being.
Leadership is all about developing a positive mindset and passing on positive vibes to the group of people working with you. Children must be encouraged to remain motivated irrespective of what the situation is, they should be encouraged to keep trying even after failing multiple times, teach them to celebrate the smallest of the victory of life. In every phase of life, a happy person is someone we all look up to.
A great virtue that children can learn from early on is gratefulness – the ability to appreciate what they have and find happiness in their means. Effective leaders are people who can be innovative and can remain composed in the face of adversities. These skills can be imbibed by early education by associating children with socially relevant causes. Such initiatives develop their sense of empathy and makes them more balanced individuals later.
Every experience changes as a person either subtly or fundamentally, learning and adapting from experiences should be continuous, therefore not age dependent. Also good leader needs many qualities like domain knowledge, clarity, vision, passion, creativity, drive to improve lives of all the stake holders and along the way from being a good leader to a great leader, there will be many more things that have to be learned or unlearned. Some of skills needed for a better future cannot be taught today, EQ, AQ and HQ however are timeless qualities a greater leader will need. If we look at the world right now, be it east or west, the powerful political leaders are leaning either too right or left, business leaders too, across the globe, are driven by valuations, stock prices and profitability. The rising disparity between the haves and have nots is at a snapping point, the carbon foot prints of nations, their industries and habits of its common populace is changing the ecology faster than any previous human activity, consumerism has driven most people unhappy with everything they own or aspire to own. Are we waiting for the "Second coming" to change the status quo? Or we should collectively educate our young and not let them repeat our mistakes?
The right education, care and meaningful experiences in the early years means building strong fundaments, not just academic but importantly social, so that they can become leaders that find innovative and socially conscious solutions- something that the world needs desperately.