Transformational Leadership: Parents You Can’t Lead Your Children Where You’ve Not Gone Yourselves

“We can’t lead farther than we have gone ourselves”  John C Maxwell

Have you ever needed  to get to a certain location like a store, a restaurant, or a doctor’s office, but you are not 100 percent sure of where it was. You may even have a general idea of where it is located. But, you cannot recall the exact directions on how to get there?  You may even be confident you could get there if you had to, but it may take a while to get you bearings.  I mean you can ask for directions or even research the route using various GPS or map apps, but where is the sense of adventure in that?

Parents, when it comes to leadership, it is difficult to find your way unless you get directions.  And if you are going to mentor your children in leadership and direct them towards positive growth, you have to go there first.  John C. Maxwell says, “We can’t lead father than we have gone ourselves.”  Thus if you have not grown your leadership, it makes it difficult to take your child where you have not ventured yourself.

So what steps do you need to take in order to enhance your personal development as a leader, so you can guide your child on their leadership journey?  The steps are not always easy, but all four steps calls for consistency on the part of the parent or guardian. They are: Expand, Explain, Experience and Encourage.

Expand –  Expand calls for expanding your own personal development.  Parents lead by example. Again, you will have great difficulty taking your children where you have not gone yourself.  And to expand yourself, you have to be aware of where you are in your growth and development, before you can chart out where you want to go.  Robert Greenlieaf (Founder of modern day servant leadership movement) noted another special aspect of awareness. Greenleaf says, “Awareness also aids one in understanding issues involving ethics and values. It lends itself to being able to view most situations from an integrated, holistic position.”  As you expand your personal growth and development, as a leader, you can begin to pour that knowledge into your children, as you explain leadership concepts to your children. This is key in element in how parents influence child behavior.

Explain – If your child is going to learn how to take control of their lives as a leader and add value to others, you are going to have to explain to them what a leader is, along with, the values important to being a good leader.  And it needs to be in such a way they can imagine themselves as a leader. And it would not hurt for you to add to their imagination by helping them dream cast about what type of servant leader they can be now as a child, teen and as an adult.  Robert Greenleaf tells us, “For any thing to emerge there must first be a dream, an imaginative view of what might be. For something great to happen, there must be a great dream.

Experience – Your child needs to experience your leadership.  They need to see you model it. They need to see you put it into action on regular basis. I once heard John Maxwell say, “You should keep your bar of excellence high.  Never lower the bar on yourself and always raise it with others.” I remember when my children were young. I took them grocery shopping with me. We had a great time. When I got home, I discovered the cashier had not charged us for all of our items.  I gathered my children into the car and took my receipt and the unpaid items to the store.  I found the manager and explained the situation to him.  I told him I wanted my kids to see me do the right thing.  The manager told my kids they should always be honest like their father and follow his example.  I’m far from perfect and my kids will tell you the same.  But the grocery store manager’s words really hit home, with me.  And I was reminded that my example; the way I model my life before them would be critical in how my children would eventually live their lives.

Encourage –  You have more control over your child or teen’s environment at home than you do when they are in school or with friends. You need to encourage your child to seek out friends with positive self leadership traits or they may gravitate to hang out with friends or peers who have low leadership levels of self-leadership and defective moral compasses. But again you have to model a Leadership level your child/teen can aspire to.  Or you risk them spiraling down to dwell within the realm of lower expectations of pseudo friends and thus limiting their overall leadership capacity. Jim Burns, a writer with CBN wrote, “Knowing your teen’s friends will definitely provide insight into the morals and family values that are influencing your son or daughter. In the process of getting to know your teen’s friends, you will learn a lot about your own daughter or son as well.” One of the best was to know your son or daughters  friends is to open your home to them. Invite your child’s friends to play, do homework, have sleep overs, etc., at your home where you can get to know their friends.

Again, the steps do you need to take in order to enhance your personal development as a leader, as well as, your parenting skills as a parent or guardian, so you can guide your child on their leadership journey. While not always easy, all four steps: Expanding, Explaining, Experiencing and Encouraging will call for consistency on our part to raise the next generation of leaders.