CXO

10 leadership skills that are child's play

You can spot some of the most important leadership qualities by watching how kids interact. Steve Tobak lists a few lessons from the playground.

Whether you realize it or not, as a child, you learned things that are fundamental to your success as a manager or leader. Here's the rub. The act of growing up probably robbed you of these precious lessons.

There are a number of reasons for that:

  • You become pragmatic and lose perspective. By necessity, adults focus on the most pressing issues and therefore sacrifice big-picture perspective.
  • You become overloaded and distracted. It's ironic, but the combination of information and communication overload and personal and professional responsibilities actually makes adults more subject to distraction than children.
  • You become jaded. Negative experience causes you to develop a tough exterior or a filter that, unfortunately, also filters out positive experience and opportunity.
  • You learn new lessons from the wrong teachers or sources.
  • You grow up. Long story short, time and experience take their toll.

At its core, success in managing and leading organizations is based on how well you know yourself and on your ability to understand others. And the most important lessons you've ever learned about yourself and others were as a kid.

Besides, if you think back, you'll remember that there were certain kids the others followed. They were natural leaders.

So, this isn't just a theoretical argument. Having grown up with hundreds of friends on the densely populated streets of Brooklyn, New York, and seeing how everyone turned out, it's relatively straightforward to figure out what worked and what didn't.

Note: This article is based on an entry in BNET's The Corner Office blog.

1: If authority is the enemy, you never get any

There's a simple, self-fulfilling irony to how people deal with authority. Kids either, at some point, realize that authority and adulthood are their future or they don't. That, in part, determines their future.

2: Network, schmooze, and tell stories

Networking, schmoozing, and storytelling are all critical skills for leaders — on the playground, in their personal life, and in business.

3: Confrontation is constructive

Kids are constantly in each others' faces over all sorts of things. As a result, issues get resolved openly and more quickly.

4: Play nice with the other children

Seriously, getting along with others is a big-ticket item in the business and corporate world.

5: Be genuine, honest, and open

Children are honest and open by nature. But experience teaches some of them otherwise, and that doesn't bode well for their future.

6: Personality goes a long way

Humor, charisma, and confidence are all leadership attributes that resonate with children and adults alike.

7: Get the job done

The most respected and well-liked kids were good with sports, relationships, or school. They got the job done.

8: Learn to swallow your pride

There's a reason why pride is the primary deadly sin. It's true of management behavior, as well. The first big fight I remember having with a friend, my mom said, "Apologize and be the bigger person." Humility is an important leadership trait.

9: Maturity matters

There are always a handful of kids who are more comfortable in their own skin and, therefore, with others. They typically turn out well.

10: Lying catches up with you eventually

There were a few kids who, for whatever reason, developed a long-term bad habit of lying or BSing. Eventually, it does catch up with them.

Editor's Picks