Most people chuckle at the idea of a toddler conducting high-level, intricate business deals on a plastic phone, but guess where they learned that behavior? That’s right, they saw, they translated, and they mimicked, all while unsuspecting parents near and far lead the way without even knowing what was happening.
Children are always following the example they witness.
A few months ago, my six year-old Ellie and I went to the grocery store. We were on a modern day hunt-and-gather expedition, in pursuit of fresh strawberries.
“Ellie keep up with me, when I take a step you take a step!” I said in a hurry, as we walked through the sliding doors.
“Okay Dad, let’s go!” she said back.
Within moments I had arrived at the strawberry display. I grabbed the best carton of berries I could find. I looked to my foraging partner to celebrate…but she was missing. My eyes passed back and forth— until I found Ellie looking for her expedition leader.
“Ellie, why didn’t you step every time I took a step?” I asked.
“I did Dad, but your legs are longer than mine!”
Typically, leaders will work harder, faster, more efficiently, and achieve more than their followers. This doesn’t mean their followers are not capable. It means they must acknowledge their followers are growing. Their pace may be slower, and every once in a while the leader is going to have to consciously look back and see if their followers are keeping up.
As a parent I get to see growth in real time.
A few weeks ago, my eleven-year-old son Charlie rolled up with his fierce entourage of two-wheeled buddies. He said, “Hey Dad, can we ride our bikes to the gas station?”
My response was unwittingly profound.
“Yes, if you guys want me to trust you when you have a car, don’t mess this up!”
From day one to graduation day, I will get to see all seven of my kids continually grow in maturity— physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Charlie didn’t realize the child (follower) was actually training his father (leader), for that day when a three-thousand pound vehicle was the mode of transportation. I taught my son the all-important lesson of building trust, as he taught me to let him be a leader— right in the middle of our driveway.
My job today is to “parent” the next generation of leaders— literally. The ceiling of everything that I hope to accomplish as a leader will be the floor for the next generation of leaders. There will come a day in the not-so-distant future, when the fifth grader in my home— in your home, will be running the school, hospital, or organization in your neighborhood.
The next generation needs us to be the best leaders we can be— today!