Colin D Ellis
Leadership | Culture | Success

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Leadership tips for kids that work for adults too

It’s been school holiday time here in Australia, so I thought in this week’s blog I’d combine my love of family and leadership.

When I was young my parents taught me the value of manners and being nice to people. Saying 'please', 'thank you', 'excuse me' and waiting my turn to talk. They taught me about treating people in the right way and about having the patience to listen to my many aunties and uncles, who 'knew better'. Thinking back I don't consider this to be 'of its time', I think of it as the perfect message to give our children.

I always wanted to be a father as I enjoyed being around the constant energy, excitement, curiosity and possibility that children bring. I like to think that I'm a good Dad because I encourage all of that.

Every day as a parent brings a new situation to deal with. Whether it’s bike chains sticking, broken toys, tears at hearing the word ‘no’, poor choices of behaviour, smuggling Nerf guns to school (see also ‘poor choices of behaviour’), angst about friendships, despair over solving equations or just the endless mountain of belongings that fail to come home from school. What can seem like a minor incident to me can be a devastating setback to a child. 

Each of these things tests me as a father and as a person. I must continually look at who I am and how I react. The same is true of how you evolve as a leader within your organisation. Not that you should treat your staff like children, you should instead encourage those childlike qualities that were the foundations for your career today.

Regardless of age or gender, here are five leadership tips that I teach my kids that are great for adults too:

1. Fun is good!

We all love to laugh and when I mean laugh I don't mean a cynical smile, I mean a full-on, eye-watering, 'can't get my breath' laugh. They happen when you least expect them and you never want the feeling to end. 

2. Bullying is never acceptable

Human beings are vulnerable things and that should never, ever be taken advantage of. Being a bigger, taller, more driven, angrier person doesn't give you the right to impose yourself – physically or verbally – on anyone else. Ever.

3. There's a reason that Listen and Silent have the same letters

In our device-driven world, active listening is a skill we should all learn. The ability to listen to not only what is being said but also how it’s being said, before processing the meaning  and crafting your response is so important (see Tanya Drollinger - Active Empathetic Listening). Your turn to speak comes after they've finished.

4. Keep your promises

If you say that you're going to do something you should do it or else don't make the promise. As soon as you make a promise you create a level of expectation that – when met – will prove to the recipient that you understand how important it is to them. As soon as you let them down you have double the work to do to regain their trust. 

5. Never stop learning

Every day we learn something new, so we should open ourselves up to that and soak up as much as we can. We should be relentless in our curiosity to find out more, to better our knowledge and ourselves. We won't always understand something first time around, so we should carry on until we do.

Whether you're five or 65, life is full of choices. As a parent I see it as my role to guide my children so that they can make the best choices in their lives. I want them to reach their full potential and I want that for myself too. Right, I have to go now, I’m being asked a question by my son and it wouldn’t look good if I carry on typing...

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