There is a lot of responsibility involved in being a leader. People look to you for answers and guidance. The best leaders are confident but also understand that they don’t have all of the answers. A leader is not always the boss, either. Typically, someone with boldness and courage in their convictions will set the tone for their peer group. Leadership responsibilities are sometimes granted by title or position, but often they grow organically based on one’s contribution to a group. Among children, leaders are often the kids who will speak up and suggest a game to play or what to do next on the project. Outspoken kids often have magnetic personalities and draw the attention of their classmates.
Being influential does not always equate to being a good leader, though. Once you have sufficiently expanded your sphere of influence, peer pressure becomes a powerful tool, and hivemind causes your group of followers to pay little attention to where they’re being led or what they’re being led to do. Especially with children, once they’ve “hitched their wagon to a horse,” it becomes complicated to change course. It is important as parents to pay attention to who our kids are hanging out with, how they act when they’re together, and any behavioral changes that may be happening due to that friendship.
With great power comes great responsibility.The Peter Parker principle – Stan Lee, Spider-Man
Once someone realizes that they have the ability to influence others, there is a natural tendency for them to inflate their sense of self-importance. It’s a path that, if not tempered, leads to narcissism. It isn’t easy to feel empathy for others when your own image so consumes you. As parents, we want our children to set the tone for their peer group, but we need to provide that temperance if we see them becoming tyrannical.
Your children will come across these “Queen Bee” and “Alpha Male” types throughout their lives at school, church, sports, at work, and in social settings. They’ll typically be arrogant, manipulative, selfish, and will bully people to get their way. The people they surround themselves with will be submissive, and while many people may not like them, they’ll typically say that behind their backs while being friendly while together. This type of personality frequently puts these people at the head of their social circles or in a management position at work. They rule through fear.
While behaving this way can get you promoted, or to the top of your small social food chain, it inspires no loyalty and creates no authentic emotional connection. I’m sure as you’re reading this, faces are running through your mind of people you went to school with, bosses you’ve had, or maybe another parent from the basketball team that fit this description. They’re not pleasant to be around, but everyone seems to do whatever they say. It’s perplexing.
I bet you can also think of a few people who seem to rise above these traits but still have a gravitational pull. These are people who seem to genuinely care about your well-being, appear unfazed by the opinions of others, and look supremely confident in their own skin. These people can confidently stand up to the tyrants because their purpose is infallible. These people need to understand why they’re doing something, and they need that “why” to connect to their own sense of why, whatever that may be.
For your children to become this type of person, they must have deeply rooted principles. They have to learn how to actively listen, empathize with others, consider all points of view, and create scenarios where everyone in the group feels heard and connected. Your child must be humble enough to understand that they don’t have all of the answers but strong enough in their beliefs not to be pushed around when they know they’re right. It’s a delicate balance of EQ and IQ. It is developed over a lifetime of contextual conversations, learning from mistakes, putting oneself in someone else’s shoes, and thoughtful reflection.
One of the best starting points to start teaching this to younger kids is The Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would like for them to treat you. It’s often not enough to just say those words, though. Provide an example.
“You just took that toy away from your brother while he was playing with it. I understand that you wanted to play with it, but think about how you might feel if he had done that to you. Can you think of anything you could have done differently to make you both happy?”
From there, the conversation can open up and go in many different directions. It’s important to have these conversations, though. If there is a meltdown over the situation, wait until the extreme emotions have calmed down, but still, make sure to talk about it that same day while it’s fresh on everyone’s minds. It’s also important that your kids see you demonstrating these characteristics, as they will absolutely model their behavior after yours, regardless of what you try to tell them.
It isn’t easy to solidify your identity and choose not to conform to your environment. There is constant external pressure to compromise and fit in. This is especially hard as a child, but many people never learn to break free and be themselves. If you can teach your children to be genuine leaders through humility and respect and to have the courage to be themselves regardless of the environment, they’ll be rewarded with a lifetime of rich friendships and exciting opportunities.
Discussion Questions (Please post in comments below or Join Us In Discord!)
- How would you coach your kids to deal with being bullied for not fitting in?
- How do you instill the confidence required to resist that external pressure to conform?
- Do you have any experience with the Queen Bee / Alpha Male types? What is/was that like?
- Do you know anyone who fits that humble leader mold? How do you feel about them?