Teaching children to be leaders of self and others

Leadership is the art of motivating others toward achieving a common goal and children can only learn this if they are taught. PHOTO/NET

What you need to know:

Relational skills are the most important abilities in leadership and this is the most important tool we can teach our children

If there is anything that is in short supply right now in Africa, anything that we need to recapture and recapture quickly is leadership.

All our problems (corruption, disease, ignorance, poverty, hunger, wars, and violence) should be placed right at the doorstep of our past and present leaders but we should not leave them there; we can choose to be as mad as a hatter, as I often hear some people lament on radio and TV or we can choose to change the narrative for good by empowering our younger generation with a knowledge and skill set that is far different from what we were given because as someone said, “We cannot solve problems by using the same level of thinking we used when we created them.”  

There is a debate whether leaders are “born” or “made” but whatever the case, every child can be a leader in their space as long as they have been empowered with the right tools.

As parents, we have or ought to have these tools to develop the leadership capacities of our children for it starts at the family level.  What then is leadership? It is the art of motivating others toward achieving a common goal. 

What makes leadership?  If leadership were a cake, the first four below would be the main ingredients and would apply at the family level, the last one would be the icing on the cake which would apply at the top or national level. 


“Character is like a tree, and reputation like its shadow,” said Abraham Lincoln. It includes nuances such as faithfulness, integrity, responsibility, loyalty, honesty, and diligence.  

How do you teach character to a child?

Demonstrate it. Let them see what it looks like. Are you a person of integrity? Do you keep your word?

Are you living from the heart? Do you have personal values that you live by? Or are you the one that tells lies over the phone about where you are or what you are doing? Or are you the one cutting deals from under the table, taking money that does not belong to you? Or are you the one telling your children, “Do as I say but not as I do?” or are you the one telling them anecdotes about Ichuli; that fictitious, dishonest, and crafty rabbit.

Your children are watching and picking up the cues.      


The Cambridge English Dictionary defines confidence as a feeling of having little doubt about yourself and your abilities or a feeling of trust in someone or something.

From this definition, we see that confidence means two separate but intertwined feelings: trust in self and trust in others. A leader needs both; confidence that you can do the task given to you and the confidence that the team you have can deliver the goods.   

How do you teach confidence to a child?

Trust them with opportunities to solve problems. For instance, allow them to make the weekly menu for the home; what do they want to eat? Can they help in preparing it?

You can start by making the menu and preparing the food while they watch, then do the whole process together with them then finally they do it themselves while you stand by and watch.

It builds their confidence as tasks become larger. You can apply this principle to every task you want them to do. 


Robert Franken, in his book, From Human Motivation third edition, defined creativity as the tendency to generate or recognise ideas, alternatives, or possibilities, that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others. Children have a lot of energy and are naïve, open, and smart. We parents should never underrate them or kill their creative spirit. I know parents who really put their children down and despise them even openly saying harsh words to them; “you will never amount to anything”, “you are a useless good-for-nothing excuse”, “you are stupid”, and such unkind words but make no mistake about it, you will eat those words in future as they surprise you with their ingenuities.      

How do you teach children creativity?

Create for them an environment that allows them to create. You do not even have to teach them much considering you might be short of intelligence yourself but they will somehow figure things out. For instance, I gave my children their laptop to use. A few weeks into their holiday, they were doing things on that gadget I could not do myself. Either their friends had taught them or they had stumbled on some functions as they spent time with it. This is about developing a strategy that wins. It can involve breaking down large tasks into small workable bits.


Leadership can only happen within the context of a team following and cooperating with the leader to lead. However, the leader is principally responsible for this process.

“Relational skills are the most important abilities in leadership”, says John C. Maxwell. How does a leader go about collaborating with others? Are they forceful or gentle? Are they manipulative or genuine? Are they patient or impatient? Are they selfish or selfless? Are they proud or humble?

How do you teach children to collaborate?

Using teams, encourage your children to be part of teams and serve others in whatever capacity they are given, without competition, and complaining. For instance, allow them to be part of a sports team. Teach them to be supportive of those who are over them in authority.


There should be a national coaching programme for all Ugandan children that should aim to take a national character and define who we are as a nation/people group.

How do we coach children in these values?

We should partner with families, clans, tribes, and kingdoms, through a programme, and help them identify, strengthen, share, and serve communities on national values.

We should also have a program for national service where youth are taken to learn about to learn about the nation and how to protect and defend it. 

If we are to get Uganda off the charts, we are going to have to be intentional about raising our children with a bias toward servant leadership as John Calvin Maxwell, a global leadership expert and trainer says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”             


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