Last week I spent a few days at a leadership conference, because the charity I’m employed by works primarily with church leaders.
It got me thinking about my role as a parent. Am I really a ‘leader’ at home? Am I comfortable with that, or does the term ‘leadership’ not have a place in a domestic situation?
When some of the faithful volunteers without whom the church would struggle to survive are introduced to the concept of leadership, one of the first obstacles for them to overcome is often just to start thinking of themselves as leaders. They may have responsibility for other people for at least an hour or two each week, maybe children or the elderly, or even take charge of a team of other volunteers. But many still struggle to embrace the tag of ‘leader’.
So, as parents, are we leaders in our families? Of course. We have authority, responsibility and influence. Whether we like it or not, our kids look up to us, learn from us and are formed to some extent by the way we act and the words we use. Frightening, eh?!
Turning the tables
So here comes the crux of this post. One of the things I’ve learned about leadership is that it’s about more than just leading; it’s is often about being led.
As children we were led by our parents, teachers and other influencers; as we grow up and enter the working world, we’re led by those who manage us, as well as share their experience and knowledge. There are others who lead us: trusted friends, family members, doctors, sports team coaches, priests, the list goes on … you see, being led always comes before leadership itself. And it’s a pretty good habit to retain even when our own responsibilities start to increase.
During my parenting course training (as I’ve mentioned in several previous posts), one of the things that’s covered is letting our children take the lead during playtime. Because all too often as parents we somehow manage to make playtime as miserable as possible. We take on our formal role as ‘leader’ and manage to drain all the fun out of the situation. We choose to play with them, but only on our terms. Our choices, our time-scales, our rules. You know the sort of thing: letting the detailed, over-complicated rules of board games get in the way of our kids having any fun; getting the Lego out so we (not they) can build another world-beating architectural masterpiece. We’ll all have our own examples, I’m sure.
But to conclude, I’ll actually get to the inspiration for this post. About 24 hours ago I read this fantastic story about a six-year-old who wants to help people suffering from poverty. Supported by his parents, advocated by his dad, this young man is making a difference. He wanted to raise £60, but has already topped £3,000 and the figure will no doubt keep rising as his big event (the sponsored two-mile run) gets ever closer. Just see what #teamjoel is doing on Twitter.
This is all happening because he’s being allowed to take the lead.
Forget your cynicism about who’s actually the driving force behind this fundraising project (I’ve only met his dad once, and he seemed to have a trust-worthy character), because this is great stuff. Joel saw something and wanted to respond. When asked what he wanted to do about it, he wasn’t faced with objections, barriers or excuses. He was just allowed to let it fly, to turn his idea into reality. He was allowed to take the lead.
As the charity he’s raising money for, Tearfund has got very excited about it all. I don’t often sponsor strangers, but I’ve made an exception on this occasion. If you want to donate as well, join in here.
Go Joel! (And his parents!)