Picture this; average day, school pick up, Miss Six in the back chattering away in her usual way. Endless questions, comments on who she’d played with that day, what she’d observed whether she ate the carrots in her lunch box, and then wham! One of those moments of pure wisdom that children bring, cutting through to the crux of something that adults the world over struggle with, study, research and theorise over. Now my child does appear to be beyond her years, regularly surprising me throughout her short existence with her knowledge, depth of questioning and grasp of language…..though I’m probably biased!
On this occasion the topic in question, Leadership. Word for word it went like this:
Miss Six: “No, I didn’t eat my carrots Mama. I know about Leadership”
Me: “Oh yes honey, (choosing to ignore carrot comment) – what do you know about Leadership?”
Miss Six: “I know that a Leader is someone who helps other people. They are patient and kind and show other people ways to do things they might not have thought of before”
Me: “That’s exactly right my darling, is there anything else you know about leadership?”
Miss Six: “Yes a leader should look after people and care about whether they feel happy or sad and make sure they’re included. They need to be good at listening.”
Me: “Have you been learning about this at Kura (school – Miss 6 is in a bilingual class)?”
Miss Six: “No. I just know. Mum, if I eat my carrots can I get an ice cream at the mall?”
In a matter of minutes she’d nailed it. Leadership doesn’t need to be as complex as many of us seem to want to make. Break it back down to the basics. The best leaders I know and the top leaders in history (by and large – there are exceptions to every rule!) share the characteristics Miss Six identified:
- They help; they are genuinely interested in and care about others
- They take the time to give direction, and step back to let people find their own way
- They ask questions to encourage thinking outside the square
- They listen
Now, I could categorise all this with words like communication, integrity, authenticity, influence and write screeds about all of these things and what they mean, how they’re displayed and how to achieve them, and in turn greatness in leadership through them. But why not leave it at that. In the words of a six year old that can be understood the world over, plain and simple?