Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. exemplified servant leadership. When we teach our kids to lead with love and be of service to others, we show them the true meaning of leadership.
In our world, it’s easy to get caught up in the pressure and competitiveness of raising a child who is personally and academically successful. Our society does not allow for mediocrity and slackers. From the time our child is born, we are flooded with images and messages that encourage us to raise leaders. We enroll our kids in various programs hoping to either awaken their latent leadership skills or reinforce the leadership qualities we see exhibited in them. Our society glorifies fame, power and wealth. No longer are we satisfied with living a comfortable life, we want things bigger and better than everyone else.
We become so concerned with giving our kids the tools they need to lead, we sometimes forget to equip them with the compassion to give back. Our future lies in the hands of the next generation. They will be the adults making key decisions, implementing laws and policies that affect our lives. We can’t just focus on raising kids that lead successful lives, we have to focus on raising leaders that empower others and lead with love rather than power.
As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and Day of Service, we are reminded of how he lived his life as a servant leader. Dr. King’s actions were more powerful than his speeches and letters. He lived his life as a man who uplifted and empowered others by doing small things in great ways. Great leaders are honest, empathetic, loving, humble, kind, respectful, influential, confident, fair, flexible, open-minded, and brave. However, when we talk about leadership, we often omit the words: loving, kind, humble, empathetic. It’s as if they represent a weakness in leadership. Yet, some of the greatest leaders who walk on earth embodied these characteristics. If we look at the leadership style of Dr. King, we would see that he led with love. So, why is it that we neglect to impress upon our children the importance of love in leadership?
Leading with love demonstrates one’s ability to forgive, to empathize, and to see the greatness in others. It’s easy to get followers if you’re charismatic or powerful enough to convince people of your vision or plan. Yet, it’s more effective to get supporters who share in your vision and plan because they know you care about them. It’s a message we need to share with our children about leadership. Our goal in raising men and women of character is to ensure that we are not encouraging our children to become egotistic leaders.
The one way we can do this is to help our kids balance their greatness by using their heads and hearts. As parents, our role is to model the behavior we want to see in our children. Taking the time to reflect on our behavior, helps us become more aware of how we lead as parents. Think about your characteristics as a leader. Do you use your power for personal gain? Are you fair and flexible when others make mistakes? Are you more concerned about looking good as a leader than doing what’s right? Are you clear about your motives?
If you want to raise a servant leader of tomorrow, you must start to live as a servant leader today. It starts with showing our children the power of leading with love and being of service to others.
Originally appeared at Raising Great Men