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Roy Osing
Roy Osing

LEADERSHIP LAB

Five ways to prepare children for leadership Add to ...

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.

We need to prepare individuals today for leadership tomorrow.

Leaders who are capable of guiding organizations through the turmoil of dramatic economic change, serving employees with higher “me” expectations, rising demands of social responsibility, insatiable investor demands and technological change showing no limits.

I am not referring to leader preparation using the principles and practices espoused by today’s leadership academics and pundits, for they are not adequate to meet the challenges on the horizon.

New leadership teaching is required; we must equip future leaders to both cope with chaos in the marketplace, and take their organizations to higher levels of performance.

I frequently voice my view that today’s education system is inadequate in many ways to address what people need to know about successful leadership. Some “experts” have limited experience leading complicated organizations, yet their views punctuate the list of credentials, skills and experience necessary to be a standout leader.

It’s time to take the task of leadership development to ground zero and teach kids the basics of practical leadership.

These five actions can be taken by family members and teachers alike to sow the seeds for our future leaders.

1. Ask “What do you think?” in the face of a problem. Rather than resort to taking control and dictating the solution, we must engage the child more actively in the problem-solving process. Organizations need more problem solvers, not individuals who blindly comply with the views of others and who feel obligated to follow the direction dictated by someone else.

2. Encourage children to create art as opposed to “colouring inside the lines” perfectly. Business is not formula driven and is messy; more often than not the most inelegant and imperfect solutions are the most effective. We need our kids to expand their thinking beyond the box of established methodology and explore non-traditional and often controversial approaches to deal with the challenges they face.

3. Push kids to define more than one way to handle a problem. A plan rarely turns out the way it was intended in any organization; we need leaders who are adept and comfortable with coming up with a variety of responses that can be drawn upon when the original one falls short of expectations. Ask “what else might work?” to encourage a conversation around alternate solutions to a problem rather than focusing on just one.

4. Expose and develop the differences in our child rather than trying to get them to conform with accepted norms and comply with the rules of society. The problem I see when chatting with new grads and young professionals is that most of them “look” the same. They have similar academic skills, their résumés use the same boilerplate template, they don’t know what makes them special and they have no idea how to compete with others who are vying for the same opportunities.

5. Develop their strength and independence by challenging our kids with “Why do you care what others think?” It’s not that you want to encourage deviant behaviour that has negative consequences on another individual, but governing our actions based on the views of others is no way to motivate innovation and creativity. Inhaling the perceptions and biases of another individual simply creates another one of them; individual identity is lost. At an early age we need our kids to breakaway from the shackles imposed by “the herd” so leaders are created by the new ideas they have not how efficiently they conform to the expectations of others.

It’s on us.

We can take personal responsibility to nurture our children to grow up with future leadership potential or we can continue to delegate the responsibility to “the system” to do it for us.

And be prepared for the consequences.

Roy Osing (@RoyOsing), former executive vice-president of Telus, is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead, dedicated to helping organizations and individuals stand out from the competitive herd.

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