What this father thinks every teenager needs to know about leadership to make life a “slam dunk.“
Standing in a crowded gym I watched my teenage son and several of his friends take to the middle school basketball court for the last time. He’s been playing sports since he was four years old and in many ways is a natural athlete when it’s channeled, and he’s had some great coaches. In prior seasons it’s taken him a good five minutes or so of play to warm up and adjust to being watched by a crowd of people.
This year though, as one of only two eighth-graders on the varsity team, there was no time for warming up. From tip off to the final buzzer he was pretty much in, unless he fouled out. He’s pretty aggressive. I don’t mind that because I think it will serve him well someday, but this year I’ve witnessed a change. The shy kid who was once reluctant to take a shot not only hit occasional three pointers but his shoulders have changed and he stands solid. He’s encouraging his teammates more, and he’s taking more control.
It’s a metamorphosis on the hardwood. I’m witnessing the former shy kid show confidence and leadership. I’m amazed and proud. As he moves beyond middle school, I’m certain I’ll be in awe of other changes. Meanwhile, I hope I can feel better knowing I’ve taught him these seven things I believe every teenager should know to make leading in life a slam dunk.
Leaders are proud of their roots. Never be ashamed of your family, your faith, your friends, or your job. Where you come from is ok, and where others come from is ok. In fact it’s better than ok. The road to the person we become is paved by all those things. I once heard “my home may be someone else’s dream home, my car someone else’s dream car, my job someone else’s dream job”. Be proud, just don’t be prideful. The most shameful thing you can do is treat others less than yourself. Rather than chasing acceptance or approval from others, pursue your purpose and help show others theirs.
Leaders Communicate. Be confident and comfortable looking others in the eye. Soak up information and know your stuff. Knowing how to share knowledge effectively is a skill. Be humble and bear in mind that no one likes a know-it-all. Know when to step up to the plate. Know when to step back. Don’t be a fake flatterer or tell people things just to tickle their egos. The most valued people are those who can keep confidence and speak truth out of genuine concern. Become the go-to person who will shoot straight with people. You don’t always have to speak first. Sometimes it’s best to be last. Be kind, fair, and judicious in all you say, and above all remember this: sometimes the most powerful or effective thing you can say is nothing at all.
Leaders Show Respect. You might feel that others need to earn your respect, but a leader shows respect in everything, every day. Respect property. Respect laws. Respect tradition but also respect dreams, innovation, and new ideas. Respect our leaders. Respect our country. Respect the process, and those who fight to preserve our freedoms. Respect the one you love in public and in private, and finally, for the sake of your integrity have a strong sense of self-respect.
Leaders Project Strength. Many people have ideas about what it means to be strong. Real strength is shown in how you react to life’s circumstances, surprises, and failures. Our strength is proven through our determination. Be relentless in pursuing your dreams, but remember “a dream is just a wish without a plan”. Strong people make plans, and strong people can accept when plans need to change. Just have one. Have the guts to stand up for what’s right. Silence when someone is bullied or mistreated is a sign of weakness and being a bully just makes you a jerk or worse. Be resilient, be driven and own up to your mistakes. That is strength.
A Leader is Someone You can Count On. Unless there’s an emergency, (a real one), if you say you’ll do something–do it. Be where you said you’ll be, do what you said you’d do, and in the rare event you can’t meet your obligation ask forgiveness, and make it right.
Leaders Are Human and It’s Ok to Show it. Part of the problem in our broken world is that too many people are afraid to express love or emotions because of poor examples or negative life experiences. Don’t shy away from emotion. Don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s not ok to “feel” something. Show affection when it’s appropriate. It’s ok to shed a tear over things that matter, just don’t be a crybaby or whiner when things don’t go your way. There’s a difference. One way to show your humanity is by serving others. Remember that it’s difficult to feed hate when we’re feeding others together and it’s hard to tear people down when we’re building something together. Show you care, and if you really care, you’ll act on it.
Leaders Solve Problems. Be a problem solver. There’s a big difference between “problems” and “situations”. No matter how big or small the problem is, if you don’t like something or you see an injustice, then commence to changing it. There’s almost always more than one way to solve a problem. Remember not every problem can be solved overnight, but you have to start somewhere. Be part of the solution.
Originally published on The Purple People Leader
Photo: Flickr/Nathan Rhoades